Tokyo stocks plunged Friday with the benchmark Nikkei stock index tumbling 3.30 percent as investors offloaded shares as the crisis in Ukraine intensified and the yen continued its rise against the U.S. dollar.
Brokers said that investor sentiment on the last trading day of the week was largely impacted by the situation in Ukraine, ahead of a referendum in Crimea on Sunday over its future status.
Hiroaki Hiwada, a strategist at Toyo Securities Co., noted that investor jitters were mounting ahead of the upcoming Crimean referendum. He added that market players were, as yet, uncertain as to the exact level issues would continue to fall.
Traders also pointed to a circumspect mood Friday ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week.
Coupled with mounting concerns over the situation in Ukraine, which has seen investors flee riskier assets like stocks in favor of safe havens like the yen, which forces the currency up and adversely impacts export-related issues here, local traders also said that consternation over China's factory output also weighed on the market, with investors looking to offload positions.
"Foreign investors are becoming insecure and with the yen rising and U.S. stocks falling, coupled with jitters over China's economic growth there is a worsening sentiment among market players," noted one Tokyo-based analyst.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped 488.32 points from Thursday to close the week at its lowest since Feb. 14 at 14,327. 66, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 38.76 points, or 3.22 percent, to finish at 1,164.70.
With the U.S. dollar dropping to a week-low at the mid 101-mark, exporters took a pummeling with Honda and Toyota both closing down by around 3 percent and consumer electronics firms Sony and Panasonic falling 4.2 percent to 1,761 yen and 3.7 percent to 1, 208 yen respectively.
China-linked issues also came under selling pressure with industrial machinery maker Komatsu retreating 3.6 percent to 2,109 yen and Hitachi Construction Machinery losing 3.5 percent to close at 1,950 yen.
Utility firms also lost ground, despite progress being made towards bringing two of Japan's 48 idled reactors back online, with Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. both falling by around 4 percent.
Digital book company eBook Initiative was the day's biggest percentage loser, plunging 15 percent to 1,498 yen, following the firm announcing a net income for the current fiscal at some 40 percent below its results for the previous year.
Trading volume on Friday jumped to 3.22 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, surging from Thursday's volume of 1.69 billion shares, with declining issues outpacing advancing ones by 1,749 to 33.