Tokyo stocks fell for a third straight day Wednesday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index losing 0.86 percent following a downgrade of Italy's debt rating stoking fears about the crisis-hit eurozone.
The Nikkei got to a positive start following Wall Street's rally over night, which was buoyed by hopes that European Union leaders were actively investigating solutions to protect financial institutions in the region from becoming embroiled in the debt debacle.
But the positive sentiment lost steam and, according to local brokers, investors opted not to chase riskier assets as there was no detailed method of how exactly the EU leaders plan to resolve the issue and curb the debt crisis in Europe's single currency region.
"No concrete measures on solving Europe's crisis have come out, " said Hitoshi Asaoka, a senior strategist in Tokyo at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. "There won't be an end to the market's volatility until we see something that will calm the situation," he said.
Moody's Investors Service on Monday downgrading Italy's government bond ratings to "A2" with a negative outlook from "Aa2", due to the levels of debt, as well as weak global economy and political uncertainties, did little to lift the market mood and the three-notch downgrade sparked fears that Italy now, like Greece, is largely susceptible to financial shocks and a Greek- style default is not impossible, Moody's said.
"Not only Italy's rate cut but many other negative factors overseas intertwined and weighed on the Japanese market. Many investors are starting to fear that Japanese exporters' profits will take a beating," said Masayoshi Okamoto, equity strategist at Jujiya Securities Co.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped 73.14 points from Tuesday to 8,382.98 while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 9.93 points, or 1. 35 percent, to finish the day at 726.25.
With the euro dropping to 102.06 yen from 102.14 a day earlier and the U.S. dollar retreating to 76.69 yen from 76.82 yen in New York, exporters were pressured on Wednesday as a strong yen diminishes profit outlooks for firms reliant on overseas profits and firms' competitiveness abroad is also negatively impacted.
Toyota Motor, the world's largest automaker, fell 2 percent to 2,517 yen, while Sony and TDK lost 1.8 percent and 3.8 percent to 1,404 yen and 2,451 yen respectively.
Major Japanese financial issues lost ground following Moody's downgrade of Italian bonds and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group fell 2.2 percent to 2,066 yen, while larger rival Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's biggest lender by market value, fell 1. 81 percent to 325 yen
The Asahi newspaper quoting trade minister Yukio Edano as saying he would evaluate the nation's current electricity prices with an aim to potentially changing them sent utility issues lower and Tokyo Electric Power plummeted 12 percent to 203 yen, while smaller counterpart Kansai Electric Power lost 4.2 percent to 1, 239 yen.
It was a notably dark day for heavily weighted Fast Retailing, as the owner and operator of the Uniqlo chain of apparel stress dropped 4.0 percent to 13,340 yen, following downbeat sales figures for a second month in September.
Trading volume on Wednesday fell to 2,067.74 million shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Tuesday's volume of 2,069.24 million shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 1,416 to 189.