Japan's stocks suffer worst day in five months after weak U.S. jobs

By Dominic Lau

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares came under pressure on Tuesday, with Japanese stocks tumbling more than 3 percent as the yen hit a four-week high against the dollar after last week’s surprisingly weak jobs report raised concerns about the U.S. growth outlook.

European stocks were expected to wake up on the grumpy side, with Britain’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE>, Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI> and France’s CAC 40 <.FCHI> seen opening down as much as 0.7 percent, according to financial bookmakers.

Tokyo’s Nikkei <.N225> sagged 3.1 percent in relatively active trade, hitting a one-month low and posting its biggest one-day decline in five months as investors there were drawn into the fallout from the nonfarm payroll report following Monday’s public holiday in Japan.

The Nikkei, like Wall Street, has got off to a slow start to the year after a stellar 2013, with a 57 percent jump.

Australian shares lost 1.5 percent on Tuesday as the S&P/ASX 200 index suffered its biggest one day decline in 3-1/2 months following Wall Street’s fall overnight, with investors cautious ahead of corporate results and iron ore prices near record lows.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> slipped 0.6 percent after gaining 0.8 percent in the previous session as the disappointing U.S. jobs report added to the case for the Fed to keep rates low for longer.

While the weak U.S. jobs report raised doubts about how quickly the Federal Reserve would scale back its stimulus, it also stoked concerns about the pace of recovery in the world’s largest economy.

The announcement of a $13.6 billion deal by Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd to buy U.S. spirits company Beam Inc may offer some support to the dollar versus the yen.

Dollar/yen was one of the strongest-performing major currency trades last year, and many hedge funds have been betting the trend will continue as the Federal Reserve cuts back its bond-buying program while the Bank of Japan remains committed to providing stimulus.

Given the extent of positions in the market and continued softness in U.S. yields this week, USD/JPY could continue to test lower near-term,” analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note, adding they expected to see buying interest ahead of 101.50.

Japanese investors were likely to seek higher returns overseas as the yield differential between U.S. government bonds and Japanese government debt widened, further boosting the yen weakness if their investments were not hedged.

“The gradual widening in the rate differential between the U.S. and Japan should also encourage Japanese investors to invest in foreign bonds,” Nomura Securities said in a note.

“The expected gradual rise in global yields, while Japanese yields are expected to remain relatively low thanks to the BOJ’s JGB investment, should also influence foreign investment in the Japanese market.”


The yield on 10-year Japanese government bonds eased 3 basis points to 0.650 percent, a near one-month low, while benchmark U.S. bond were yields were 2.837 percent.

The dollar was up 0.3 percent at 103.30 yen, having fallen 1.1 percent overnight, its biggest one-day slide since September 18 and hitting a four-week low. A stronger yen tends to erode the competitive edge of Japanese exporters abroad and their dollar earnings when repatriated.

Against the Aussie dollar, the greenback bounced 0.2 percent to $0.9038, having touched a four-week low of $0.9054 on Monday, while the Australian shares <.AXJO> dropped 1.5 percent, reaching a three-week trough and logging its biggest one-day decline in 3-1/2 month.

The euro was little changed at $1.36655, however.

The dollar <.DXY> was up 0.1 percent at 80.611 versus a basket of major currencies after touching a one-week low of 80.469 on Monday.

Overnight, U.S. stocks tumbled on caution ahead of corporate results, as mounting negative pre-announcements left a lackluster profit growth outlook, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 <.SPX> off 1.3 percent.

According to Thomson Reuters Proprietary Research, almost 10 out of every 11 earnings pre-announcements for the current reporting season from S&P 500 companies have lowered estimates.

U.S. banks are in the spotlight this week, with JPMorgan Chase & Co , Bank of America , Citigroup and Goldman Sachs reporting quarterly earnings.

Among commodities, gold was steady at $1,252.49 per ounce, though it was not far from a four-week high of $1,254.80 set on Monday. The precious metal gained 0.5 percent overnight to extend Friday’s 1.6 percent rally following the disappointing U.S. employment report.

U.S. crude futures edged 0.1 percent higher at $91.91 a barrel, stabilizing after Monday’s 1 percent decline after news of a deal between Western powers and Iran to curb the OPEC country’s nuclear program and as production resumed from Libya and a key North Sea oilfield.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)

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Japan's stocks suffer worst day in five months after weak U.S. jobs
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