Tokyo stocks snapped a four-day winning streak Monday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index dropping 1.01 percent as lingering concerns about the situation in Ukraine coupled with disappointing economic data from Japan and China sent investors looking to lock in gains made recently.
Traders here said that the better-than-expected U.S. jobs report for February had already been factored into the market and ahead of a Bank of Japan report due out Tuesday, which may unveil a new round of QE, they said that apart from tepid economic data here and in China, investors had no reason to chase issues higher and locked away gains.
Regarding Japan, they were referring to the growth of the economy in the fourth quarter of 2013 being slower than first expected, with government figures showing Monday that the overall economy grew just 0.7 percent on an annualized basis in the final three months of 2013, downwardly revised from an initially projected 1 percent growth rate.
The government's latest report showed weaker-than-expected capital expenditure and dropping consumer spending ahead of a 3 percent tax hike in April to 8 percent, as factoring into the fourth quarter's slowing growth, sparking concern for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's branch of "Abenomics" aggressive economic policy, which was aimed to provide ample growth and a buffer ahead of the expected slump caused by the tax hike in April.
In addition, brokers here said that Japan's widening current account deficit in January, marking a fourth straight month of red ink, as rising needs for fuel imports coupled with the yen depreciating saw a surge in import costs, did little to inspire a lackluster market mood where trading volume hit an all-time low for the year.
The Ministry of Finance said that deficit in the balance stood at 1,589.0 billion yen (15.4 billion U.S. dollars), in the recording period, with the reading driven up by soaring costs of imported energy and a lackluster growth in overseas shipments of Japanese goods.
The ministry also revealed it was the largest figured on record since comparable data became available in 1985, which left some analysts wondering why Japan was becoming increasingly unable to sell its own goods in overseas markets.
Yoshihisa Okamoto, head of equity research at Mizuho Asset Management Co. said that there's nothing in particular pushing domestic share prices higher, and noting that the U.S. jobs reports had already been factored into market positions, added that Japan's tepid economic data did little to inspire the market and said that some investors were waiting to see if the BOJ would respond.
But other analysts remained circumspect, believing there'd be no surprises from the central bank following its two-day policy meeting through Tuesday.
Toshiyuki Kanayama, a market analyst at Monex., said that regardless of recent index gains, lower trading volume days may continue, and that while all eyes are on the BOJ, no new announcements are expected ahead of the April tax hike.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average fell 153.93 points from Friday to 15,120.14, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 9.36 points, or 0. 76 percent, to close at 1,227.61.
Oil refiners lost ground Monday, following two major oil and coal indices retreating Monday, with JX Holdings, Japan's biggest refiner, falling 1.6 percent to 538 yen and Idemitsu Kosan Co. slipping 1.4 percent to 2,098 yen. Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, meanwhile, lost 1.1 percent to close at 981 yen.
Mitsubishi Heavy relinquished 0.9 percent to 629 yen, following reports that Boeing is checking the wings of around 40 of its 787 Dreamliners for hairline cracks. Mitsubishi Heavy, Boeing's supplier, said there could be possible risks to the aircraft, owing to a change in wing manufacturing protocol.
Real estate issues also took a hammering after charging up the market last week, with Mitsubishi Estate dropping 2.2 percent to 2, 552 yen and Mitsui Fudosan losing 2.4 percent to close at 3,250 yen.
But Shimizu was among Monday's notable winners, gaining 2.9 percent to 565 yen, along with Kajima Corp.who jumped 3.1 percent to 368 yen and Taisei Corp. who closed at 466 yen, a rise of 1.5 percent.
Trading volume on Monday hit a year low at 1.87 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Friday's volume of 2.07 billion shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 1,089 to 550.