Japan's Nikkei closes at 15******
Tokyo stocks closed sharply lower Thursday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index falling to a 15-month low as investors offloaded issues amid concerns over the Ukraine issue.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped 478.79 points, or 1.81 percent, from Tuesday to finish at 25,970.82, marking its lowest closing level since November 20, 2020.
Markets here were closed on Wednesday for a national holiday.
The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, lost 23.50 points, or 1.25 percent, to close at 1,857.58.
Local brokers said that losses were extended from the morning and the market tumbled in the afternoon on reports about the situation in Ukraine.
They added that concerns were now rife that energy costs could soar, as prices for crude oil surged due to the likelihood of disruption of supplies from Russia.
"The Nikkei seems to have fallen to its bottom relative to its valuations and domestic corporate earnings. Investors will now look at how the Ukraine situation affects the real economy and central bank reactions to it," Ikuo Mitsui, fund manager at Aizawa Securities, was quoted as saying.
Other strategists said the market could fall even further over uncertainties over the Ukraine situation, as investors will switch out of riskier assets like stocks and into safe havens.
"Market participants turned risk-averse following the reports. As uncertainties remain over the situation, the Nikkei index could lose further ground following new developments," Shingo Ide, chief equity strategist at NLI Research Institute, said.
Ide added that investors are "worried that higher energy prices could cool the economy. Another concern is that the US Federal Reserve may tighten its monetary policy drastically to battle a possible rise in inflation."
By the close of play, air transportation, rubber product and glass and ceramics issues comprised those that declined the most, and issues that fell outpaced those that rose by 1,294 to 824 on the First Section, while 64 ended the day unchanged.
Rubber product-linked issues extended losses on fears of higher raw materials costs, with Bridgestone skidding down 5.4 percent, while Yokohama Rubber reversed 4.7 percent by the close.
Technology-oriented issues followed their US peers lower, with Screen Holdings and industrial robotics maker Fanuc both dropping 5.4 percent. SoftBank Group, meanwhile, ended the day 6.8 percent lower.
Heavily-weighted Nikkei component Fast Retailing, owner of the Uniqlo chain of casual clothing stores, weighed on the broader market, relinquishing 3.8 percent.
Oil explorers gained on surging prices for crude oil, however, with Japan Petroleum Exploration climbing 4.1 percent, while Inpex soared 7.2 percent.
On the main section on Thursday, 1,594.12 million shares changed hands, rising from Tuesday's volume of 1,138.93 million shares.
The turnover on the penultimate trading day of the week came to 3,628.10 billion yen (US$ 31.62 billion).