March 16, 2020 / 3:04 AM / 22 days ago

Tokyo stocks edge up from 3-1/2-yr lows; BOJ's emergency meeting awaited

SYDNEY, March 16 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up on Monday as investors anxiously awaiting an emergency policy meeting by the Bank of Japan, which hours after an emergency rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The benchmark Nikkei average edged up 0.1% in a choppy trade to 17,449.59 points by the midday break, despite a fresh plunge in U.S. futures as the Fed cut failed to calm worries about the coronavirus pandemic.

The index tumbled 6.1% on Friday in its biggest fall since 2013. It finished at 17,431.05, a low last seen in November 2016.

The Nikkei’s volatility index, a measure of investors’ volatility expectations based on option pricing, jumped 16.8% to 59.66, its highest level since March 2011 when massive earthquakes and a tsunami struck Japan.

The Bank of Japan called an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss steps to stabilise markets, hours after the unscheduled rate cuts by U.S. and New Zealand central banks, as policymakers ramp up efforts to mitigate the widening economic fallout of the coronavirus.

The BOJ meeting is due to began at 12 p.m. (0300 GMT) on Monday.

Earlier in the day, the world’s six major central banks also cut pricing on their swap lines to make it easier to provide dollars to their financial institutions facing stress in credit markets.

The coordinated global actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but this time the target was a fast-spreading health crisis with no certain end in sight.

More than 162,000 are infected and over 6,000 have died of coronavirus globally. Lockdowns and travel bans spread across the world over the weekend, affecting tens of millions of people.

The broader Topix rebounded 0.5% to 1,268.39, after a sharp fall on Friday. The index fell 5.0% on Friday to 1,261.70, its lowest closing since July 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo Stock Exchange traded higher, with air transport, fish and forestry land transport being the top three performing sectors.

However, the firmer yen pressured automaker stocks as it lessens corporate profits when they are repatriated, with Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Honda Motor Co Ltd shedding 2.0% and 1.6%, respectively.

Fujifilm Holdings Corp climbed 3.8% after the company said it will buy back up to 1.07% of shares worth 15 billion yen.

Elsewhere, the index of Mothers start-up shares bounced back 4.1% after Friday’s sharp slide to a fresh seven-year low.

Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Kim Coghill

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