Tokyo investors eye geopolitical tensions next week

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TOKYO: Tokyo investors will be keeping an eye on simmering geopolitical tensions next week in the aftermath of a Malaysia Airlines jet crash in violence-wracked Ukraine.

Fresh economic data, including Japanese trade figures for June, will also be on investors’ radar screens after the Japanese government raised its view of the economy for the first time in six months this week.

On Friday, Tokyo stocks closed 1.01 percent lower as the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane in rebel-held eastern Ukraine sent jitters through the market, with shares of major Japanese carriers falling.

The headline Nikkei-225 index lost 154.55 points to finish at 15,215.71 on Friday. Over the week, the index gained 0.34 percent.


The broader Topix index of all first-section shares fell 0.79 percent, or 10.09 points, to 1,263.29. It rose 0.65 percent over the week.

The Nikkei’s losses were triggered by the crash, said Hirokazu Kabeya, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities. He added that business was also hit by soft buying sentiment ahead of a three-day weekend in Japan.

MH17 was carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, with US officials saying it was shot down.

The plane was lost in eastern Ukraine where government forces are engaged in a fierce battle to quell a rebellion by pro-Russian insurgents.

The downing added further tragedy to bristling tensions between Western nations and Russia over the issue of separatists in the eastern European nation.

‘Geopolitical risks’
Separately, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza, sending thousands of troops into the Palestinian territory.

“Everyone was compelled to think about the geopolitical risks they had forgotten about for a while,” Hiromichi Tamura, chief strategist for Japan at Nomura Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

But Tamura said he did not expect the situation as it stands to lead to any shock to the broader financial system or a jump in crude oil prices big enough to hit the global economy.

Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior investment strategist at Okasan Securities, also said: “The Russia-Ukraine situation and the Gaza invasion aren’t likely to negatively affect the (global) economy,” also adding Japanese retail investors are eager to buy domestic stocks on dips.

Japan’s two biggest airlines closed with modest losses. All Nippon Airways (ANA) fell 0.80 percent to 246 yen while Japan Airlines (JAL) was 0.66 percent lower at 5,940 yen.

Both carriers said they do not operate flights over Ukrainian airspace.

Embattled electronics maker Sharp fell 2.13 percent to 321 yen after the Mainichi newspaper said it would report a net loss in the April-June quarter owing to one-time losses linked to the restructuring of its European solar power business.

Fujitsu rose 1.82 percent to 782 yen after the leading Nikkei business daily reported it planned to withdraw from semiconductor manufacturing.

The yen, considered a safe haven in times of turmoil, was a touch
lower against the dollar but still up from Thursday’s levels.

The dollar was buying 101.32 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade, against 101.17 yen in New York but still down from 101.51 yen earlier Thursday in Tokyo.

AFP

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