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Nikkei down, property stocks eyed after land data

Written by: Staff

Tokyo, Mar 23: The Nikkei average ended down just 0.04 per cent on Thursday, with investors locking in profits in Daiwa Securities Group and other recent gainers but picking up technology stocks such as TDK Corp.

Property stocks dropped but analysts said they may draw buyers on Friday after much-awaited government land price data showed after the market closed that commercial land prices in the nation's three major metropolitan areas -- greater Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya -- for the first time in 15 years.

While institutional investors were hesitant to build new positions ahead of the fiscal year-end on March 31, retail investors and traders aiming for short-term gains are trading stocks in a short cycle, keeping the market in range, said Takahiko Murai, a general manager of equities at Nozomi Securities.

''Some investors are hoping to earn some pocket money before the end of March,'' he said.

''Investors are waiting for the new fiscal year to kick off,'' when new money may flow into the market, said Tatsuyuki Kawasaki, a director of the equities trading division at Kaneyama Securities.

The Nikkei was down 6.11 points at 16,489.37, while the broader TOPIX index was down 0.37 per cent at 1,680.09.

Brokerage firms gave up recent gains.

Daiwa Securities lost 3.4 per cent to 1,539 yen, snapping a three-day winning streak. Likewise, Nikko Cordial Corp. shed 3 per cent to 1,974 yen, losing some of the combined 9 per cent gain it posted over the last three sessions.

Mitsui Chemicals Inc. fell 2.6 per cent to 914 yen after revising down its earnings forecasts due to higher procurement costs for petrochemical products.

But technology stocks, which were hit on Wednesday by news of a delay in the release of Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system, rebounded after rises on Wall Street.

Canon Inc. rose 0.7 per cent to 7,740 yen, extending gains into a sixth session, after earlier hitting a lifetime high of 7,930 yen.

Electronics parts maker TDK rose 1.8 per cent to 8,940 yen after it said on Wednesday it expects to pay a record dividend of 90 yen per share for the year ending this month.

LAND PRICES The government data showed late Thursday that land prices in Tokyo rose in 2005 for the first time in 15 years. In one bright spot in the data, the price of property in the trendy Tokyo shopping district of Omotesando, where a new commercial complex called Omotesando Hills opened last month, jumped 30.5 per cent.

''The data wasn't bad. In particular, prices in some spots in central Tokyo are better than expected,'' said Kazunori Otomo, president at Otomo Investment Mangement Ltd. ''Shares of the companies with exposure to such central Tokyo land may have upside potential.'' JP Morgan analyst Etsusuke Masuda said the real estate sector will remain buoyant with the Japanese government's plan to sell some of its property assets to pay off national debt and tidy up its balance sheet.

''The fact that prices in all three major metropolitan areas rose is an historic feat ... the market may take this as a bullish sign,'' he said.

Japan's largest property developer Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd. was down 1 per cent to 2,570 yen and No. 2 Mitsubishi Estate Co. Ltd.

dropped 1.8 per cent to 2,515 yen.

Meanwhile, Hajime Yagi, general manager of the Japanese equity investment department at Meiji Dresdner Asset Management, said the next key focus will be corporate earnings announcements, which will start next month.

''I do expect earnings to grow in the next fiscal year but corporations will likely put out cautious outlooks ... It may not be easy (to tell) which sectors you should be focusing on,'' he said.

Murai of Nozomi Securities said the next market-moving event may be the Bank of Japan's quarterly ''tankan'' corporate sentiment survey due April 3.

''The tankan may be a turning point for the market. If the numbers come in strong, that should encourage investors to buy stocks,'' he said.

Trade volume fell to 1.77 billion shares on the Tokyo exchange's first section, down from 2.04 billion on Wednesday. Decliners outnumbered gainers 957 to 620.


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