Nikkei slumps to near one-month low as yen strength fans bleak mood
* Strong yen exacerbates already sour mood - analyst * Exporters, real estate stocks lead decline * Fed stimulus outlook key for market direction - analyst By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) - The Nikkei share average fell to a near one-month low on Thursday morning as the dollar dropped further against the yen, triggering a sell-off in exporters, and extending the benchmark's losses to well over 12 percent since last Thursday's plunge. The benchmark Nikkei fell 2.8 percent to 13,932.92 at the midday break after dropping as low as 13,879.93 earlier, the lowest since May 2. The latest decline has pulled the Nikkei 12.6 percent below the 5-1/2-year high reached last week. Exporters were hit hard after the dollar dropped as low as 100.585 yen in early Asia, its lowest level since May 10. Honda Motor Co dropped 3.0 percent, Sony Corp fell 2.6 percent and Komatsu Ltd shed 2.4 percent. The real estate sector, which was the worst sectoral performer, was down 5.4 percent, as investors took profits. The sector is up 33 percent this year, supported by the Japanese government's reflationary policies. Mitsubishi Estate Co tumbled 5.2 percent and Mitsui Fudosan Co dived 5.3 percent. The Topix dropped 2.1 percent to 1,154.07, with 31 of the 33 subsectors in negative territory. Analysts said the rising yen further dented already depressed sentiment after U.S. stocks weakened overnight on ongoing fears that the Federal Reserve might soon begin scaling back its massive stimulus programme. Investors have remained on edge since last Thursday when the Nikkei dived 7.3 percent, its worst single-day loss since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The subsequent days have also seen some extreme volatility, with a rebound in the yen, the Fed stimulus worries and a slowdown in China making investors uneasy. "The rising yen is just a minor reason that triggered further selling. The fundamental concern that's been in investors' heads is the possibility that the Fed is exiting from quantitative easing," said a fund manager at a U.S. hedge fund. Analysts expect volatility in Japanese equities to persist over the next few weeks, with U.S. economic data closely watched for clues on how they could affect the Fed's exit strategy and foreign exchange markets. "People are worried that a winding down of quantitative easing could end the generous supply of money, leading to a surge in interest rates and a downturn in stock prices and economies," Ryoji Musha, president of Musha Research wrote in a report. The Nikkei is up 13 percent since April 4, when the Bank of Japan announced a sweeping monetary expansion campaign to eradicate years of deflation and revive growth. The aggressive stimulus pursued by the central bank and government has driven the index up 34 percent so far this year.
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