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Nikkei falls 7.3 pct on economy fears, Toyota report

(Updates to midafternoon)

TOKYO, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The Nikkei average fell 7.3 percent to a 5-year low on Wednesday as fears about a global recession intensified with Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T diving on reports it may miss its profit estimates, while a firmer yen added to the pain. [ID:nTKF003053]

Panic over the fast-spreading financial crisis dragged down markets across Asia, and steelmakers such as Nippon Steel Corp 5401.T and shipping firms also led the Tokyo bourse lower.

The Indonesia Stock Exchange halted trading on Wednesday after the benchmark composite index .JKSE dropped by more than 10 percent, while Hong Kong's main stock market index .HSI dropped more than 5 percent. [ID:nJKF000080]

“The deteriorating outlook for the economy and the deepening financial crisis are pushing fear to its limit,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

“Investors want to dump shares as their willingness to take risks has shrunk, but no one wants to buy even if stocks are valued cheaply.”

As of 0454 GMT, the benchmark Nikkei .N225 was down 7.2 percent 728.79 points to 9,427.11, having earlier touched its lowest level since August 2003.

The broader Topix .TOPX lost 6.5 percent to 914.49.

The dollar dipped 0.2 percent from U.S. trade to 100.74 yen JPY= but hovered above a six-month low of 100.22 yen struck on trading platform EBS earlier in the week.

Toyota tumbled 10.5 percent to 3,320 yen after the Nikkei business daily said it is likely to post a 40 percent slide in annual profit, missing its current estimate on weak sales in North America and slower growth in China. [ID:nT69616]

A company source told Reuters that Toyota is considering cutting its annual earnings forecasts due to sluggish demand in industrialised nations, slowing sales in emerging markets and a firmer yen.

Analysts said that even at lower valuations, investors would still shun the market as more companies are expected to cut their earnings forecasts.

“Investors are not selling because Japanese stocks are good or bad, but because of the credit squeeze,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

“I see around 9,300 as the possible bottom for the Nikkei average, considering projected corporate earnings for the year ending March 2009.”

The projected price-earnings ratio of the Nikkei stock average tumbled to a 37-year low at 12.5 times on Tuesday, according to the Nikkei business daily.

Among exporters, Advantest Corp 6857.T, the world's No.1 maker of chip testers, tumbled 11.3 percent to 1,603 yen, while Honda Motor Corp 7267.T sank 8.6 percent to 2,350 yen.

Shares of Nippon Steel lost 11.3 percent to 283 yen, while shipping firm Mitsui OSK Lines 9104.T shed 13.7 percent to 615 yen. (Reporting by Aiko Hayashi; Editing by Sophie Hardach)