Asian markets lower as Japan survey disappoints investors

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stocks were lower on Friday with Tokyo stocks falling sharply after a closely-watched survey of Japanese businesses showed that confidence dropped more than expected last month.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 sank 3.1 percent to 16,232.33 while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.8 percent to 1,979.02. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 1.3 percent to 20,507.92 and Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China dropped 1.4 percent to 2,961.22. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia were also lower.

JAPAN: The "tankan" index for large manufacturers fell to 6 in March, down from 12 in December, according to the Bank of Japan's quarterly survey. Japan's big exporters have been hit by a double whammy of a slowing Chinese economy and a rising yen. The index measures the percentage of responding companies that say business conditions are better minus the percentage that say they are worse. So an index level of 6 means slightly more companies are optimistic than pessimistic.

ANALYST'S TAKE: The survey "managed to disappoint on every line," said Angus Nicholson in a daily commentary adding that the result was the worst performance since Bank of Japan began its massive stimulus measures in the second quarter of 2013. "The Nikkei did not handle the release well almost losing over 3 percent today, which could indeed be seen as a nasty portension for global equities heading into U.S. earnings season."

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks closed mostly lower on Thursday, with chemicals and agricultural companies taking the largest losses. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.57 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,685.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 index 500 shed 4.21 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,059.74. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.55 points to 4,869.85.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 27 cents to $38.06 per barrel in New York. The contract rose 2 cents to $38.34 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 33 cents, to $40.00 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 112.303 yen from 112.512 yen while the euro was nearly unchanged at $1.138.