Tuesday, March 21

Nikkei tumbles over 2% as deepening Ukraine crisis weighs

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TOKYO — Japan’s Nikkei share average tumbled more than 2% on Tuesday, extending losses to a fourth session, as sentiment soured further following an escalation in tensions around Ukraine.

The Nikkei slid 2.17% to 26,327.90 by the midday break. The broader Topix slumped 1.76% to 1,877.01, also heading for a fourth straight session of losses.

Only 11 of the Nikkei’s 225 constituent stocks rose, with one flat and the others falling.

Healthcare was the sole sector to rise, pulled up by drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo surging about 10%, after positive results for the Erhertu cancer drug it co-developed with AstraZeneca.

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Consumer sectors were the worst performers, with basic materials and tech also suffering sizable losses.

Japanese markets will be closed on Wednesday for a public holiday, putting market players in the mind to close out positions, traders said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

“Risks around Ukraine have taken a turn for the worse, but at the same time, most of the potential near-term bad news has probably already been priced in by the market,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive of Myojo Asset Management.

January’s 14-month low just above 26,000 is likely to provide firm support, he said.

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Chipmaker Tokyo Electron was the biggest drag on Nikkei, tumbling 4.59%. Peers Advantest and Renesas dropped 5.44% and 5.89%, respectively.

Electronics maker Sharp slide 7.37%, becoming the biggest decliner for a second session after it changed its chief executive.

Automakers also sank, with Mazda dropping 5.05% and Nissan declining 4.7%. Toyota slipped 2.39%.

Among consumer-oriented stocks, Uniqlo store-operator Fast Retailing stood out for a 2.36% loss that made it the second largest drag on the Nikkei.

Sauce-maker Kikkoman slumped 6.01%. (Reporting by Tokyo markets team; Editing by Rashmi Aich)