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Japanese Stocks Fall as Yen Rises on Tension in Ukraine

Japanese stocks fell, with the Topix index capping a fourth day of declines, after the yen gained amid demand for haven currencies as Russia seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The Topix lost 1.2 percent to 1,196.76 at the close in Tokyo after falling 0.7 percent in February. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average slid 1.3 percent to 14,652.23. The yen rose 0.4 percent against the dollar, extending last week’s 0.7 percent advance. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tumbled 0.7 percent. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he is preparing to visit Kiev as increasing tensions raised the likelihood of one of the tensest standoffs between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

“The biggest talking point is the developments out of Crimea,” Evan Lucas, Melbourne-based market strategist at IG Ltd., said in an e-mail. “The Ukrainian situation is a tinderbox in the making. The geopolitical crisis from the Kiev revolution has escalated even further overnight.”

Mazda Motor Corp., an automaker that gets 73 percent of sales overseas, sank 3.5 percent. Astellas Pharma Inc. dropped 4.8 percent after the drugmaker announced a 5-for-1 stock split, with the sector falling the most among the 33 Topix industry groups. Mixi Inc. slumped 14 percent after the social-gaming networking site said there were unauthorized logins to its user accounts.

Crimea, where Russian speakers comprise the majority, has become the focal point of Ukraine’s crisis after an uprising that triggered last month’s overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. Russian President Vladimir Putin won parliamentary backing to send troops into Russia’s southern neighbor. Ukraine has put its forces on combat readiness and U.S. President Barack Obama warned Russia not to intervene.

Buying Opportunity

“The yen tends to be bought on risk aversion and that would make you hesitate to buy into Japanese shares,” said Yusuke Kuwayama, a portfolio manager at Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. “But people don’t need to be overly pessimistic. History shows many of these geopolitical events lead to good buying opportunities” after they stabilize.

Inpex Corp. added 1.3 percent to 1,307 yen as oil rose amid the Ukraine tensions.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.3 percent to a record on Feb. 28 after U.S. consumer confidence improved in February from a month earlier. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment advanced to 81.6 from 81.2 in January. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for the measure to hold at its preliminary reading of 81.2.

China Manufacturing

An official gauge of China manufacturing dropped to an eight-month low. The Purchasing Managers’ Index was 50.2 for February, compared with January’s 50.5 reading and the 50.1 median analyst estimate in a Bloomberg survey. A number above 50 signals expansion. A measure of factory activity released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics Ltd. fell to 48.5 from 49.5 last month.

Exporters declined as the yen rose. Mazda Motor sank 3.5 percent to 472 yen. Canon Inc., a camera maker that gets 81 percent of revenue outside Japan, fell 2 percent to 3,100 yen.

Astellas fell the most on the Nikkei 225, sinking 4.8 percent to 6,279 yen. The company will boost the maximum number of issuable shares to 9 billion from 2 billion to expand its investor base.

Mixi slumped 14 percent to 6,240 yen after saying the number of accounts subject to unauthorized logins was 16,972 as of 5 p.m. on Feb. 28.

Of the 290 companies on the Topix that posted quarterly earnings from January through Feb. 28 and for which estimates were available, 66 percent beat analysts’ profit forecasts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Topix fell 8.1 percent this year, the biggest drop among major developed markets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge traded at 1.18 times book value today, compared with 2.60 for the S&P 500 and 1.92 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index on Feb. 28.

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