Tokyo stocks extended losses Friday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index losing 1.53 percent as the yen's appreciation against the U.S. dollar, coupled with disappointing economic data from the U.S. sparked a selling spree on jitters about the health of the U.S. economy and a lack of fresh cues.
Brokers here pointed initially to Wall Street's rise overnight as spurring buying in early trade, but gains were reversed as worse than expected jobs and retail data from the U.S. sent the yen, seen as safe currency haven, higher, and saw investors offload shares to regroup positions on the final trading day of the week.
Specifically, they were referring to the U.S. Labor Department reporting that initial jobless claims climbed by 8,000 to 339,000 from the previous week's figure of 331,000.
Median analysts here expected such claims to drop in a sign that the employment situation in the world's largest economy is improving, but in conjunction with data released last week showing much weaker than expected job growth in the month of January, with non-farm payroll employment increasing by a worse-than-expected 113,000 jobs in January, investor consternation grew ahead of February's employment figures due out next month, brokers said.
Added to this, lackluster retail sales also contributed to a dour market mood here in later trading brokers said, as the yen appreciated to 101.70 yen against the U.S. dollar from the 102.16 yen mark, logged in late trading Thursday.
Market players said that U.S. retail sales dropping unexpectedly for the second straight month in January, on slumping auto sales, did little to lift sentiment and investors opted to cut their losses and sell.
"The weak dollar and the poor economic data, coupled with lackluster buying following investors incurring heavy losses in January are contributing to lower support at these levels," said one equities strategist.
"Investors will keep buying as long as shares are trending, but at some point they will cash in and call it a day," he added.
Other strategists pointed to a lack of faith in the health of the U.S. economy as being responsible for investors' risk aversion and suggested there were some market concerns about the U. S. central bank's plans to continue to taper its stimulus measures.
Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc. said that the current situation is not seeing a risk-on mood and upward momentum for local shares and hence selling on the last trading day of the week was somewhat inevitable.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average lost 221.71 points from Thursday to close at 14,313.03, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 15.92 points, or 1.33 percent, to finish the week at 1,183.82.
Exporters retreated on the yen's rise, with Panasonic losing 2. 7 percent to 1,149 yen, while camera maker Canon lost 0.4 percent to 3,013 yen, after announcing a planned acquisition to develop new microchip-making technology.
Tire maker Bridgestone skidded down 1.2 percent to 3,662 yen, after the U.S. Department of Justice said the firm would be fined 425 million U.S dollars for parts price-fixing.
Sumitomo Rubber also failed to find traction Friday, dropping 3. 7 percent to 1,338 yen, following reports Goodyear will break ties with the firm over what it described as "anti-competitive behavior."
Kirin Holdings was also among the day's notable losers, diving 9.2 percent to 1,293 yen, after announcing profit results and earnings forecasts that came in well below market expectations.
But Dai-ichi Life Insurance bucked the downward trend, advancing 1.1 percent to 1,527 yen, after the insurer announced its nine-month net profit had almost tripled.
Trading volume on Friday rose to 2.89 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Thursday's volume of 2.30 billion shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 1,490 to 244