Japan’s markets sink after its new prime minister underwhelms investors hoping for change

October 5, 2021, 5:20 AM UTC

Japanese equities fell, pushing the Nikkei 225 Stock Average into correction territory, amid market disappointment with a new government and a host of threats to global economic growth.

The blue-chip measure fell as much as 3.5%, headed for its longest losing streak since May 2019 and extending its loss from a September high to more than 10%. Along with fading of hopes for the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, investor sentiment was hurt Tuesday by a global selloff in technology shares on the threat of persistently high U.S. inflation and ongoing concern over China Evergrande Group’s debt woes.

Kishida was formally voted in as the nation’s 100th prime minister on Monday, but his policies have yet to excite investors. Japanese stocks soared after unpopular predecessor Yoshihide Suga said he’d step down on Sept. 3, with both the Nikkei and the broader Topix rising to the highest levels since the bubble era of the early 1990s. 

But the mood didn’t last long, as the continuity choice failed to inspire the market as much as reformist rivals in the race for ruling party leader. Kishda has called a general election for Oct. 31, which may provide the next domestic signal for equities. 

“Investors had bought up Japan stocks ahead on expectations for political change—but once Kishida was elected, that sentiment toned down,” said Ryuta Otsuka, a strategist at Toyo Securities Co. “At the same time, U.S. yields rose and tech stocks were being sold off, and there are issues still impacting Chinese property markets.”

The largest contributor to the Nikkei’s loss Tuesday was Fast Retailing Co., which makes up more than 9% of the blue-chip measure. The fast fashion giant tumbled as much as 7.4%, the most since March 2020, after it reported sales fell 19% at its domestic Uniqlo operations in September on unseasonably warm weather. Electronics makers were the biggest drag on the broader Topix, which fell as much as 2.3%. 

“The market is likely to be in a corrective mood until there’s clarity on how the slowdown in the Chinese economy is impacting Japanese company results during the earnings season this month,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, a senior strategist at Nomura Asset Management in Tokyo.

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