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Japanese stocks drop to year-and-a-half low

Japanese stock prices plunged Friday to their lowest finish since July 2006, losing ground after jittery trading on Wall St. amid concerns about the U.S. economy and rising oil prices.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Japanese stock prices plunged Friday to their lowest finish since July 2006, losing ground after jittery trading on Wall Street amid concerns about the U.S. economy and rising oil prices.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock index lost 616.37 points, or 4.03 percent, to finish Friday’s half-day session at 14,691.41 points on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The close was the index’s lowest since it posted 14,500.26 points on July 19, 2006.

The TSE had been closed since last Friday for the New Year’s holidays. The exchange resumes full-day trading next Monday.

Wall Street closed narrowly mixed Thursday after share prices dropped sharply the previous day on weaker-than-expected data for the U.S. manufacturing sector. Record oil prices that have topped $100 also pressured stocks on worries that higher fuel costs could slow investment, spending and growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.76, or 0.10 percent, to 13,056.72 Thursday, and crude oil futures set a fresh trading record of $100.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Worries about the economy in the United States — a key export market for Japanese manufacturers — as well as the dollar’s weakness against the yen sent export-oriented shares down. Decliners included Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Sony Corp.

Increasing oil and raw material prices also took their toll on exporters while giving commodity stocks a boost.

“High flying blue-chip exporters are going to have a tough time coping with rising commodity prices, a stronger yen and a slowing U.S. economy,” said Masanaga Kono, strategist at Societe Generale Asset Management.

Tokyo’s broader Topix index, which includes all shares on the exchange’s first section, lost 63.77 points, or 4.32 percent, to 1,411.91.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar was trading at 109.54 yen Friday morning, up from 109.33 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro fell to $1.4738 from $1.4744.