Nikkei dips on profit-taking after Moody’s downgrade

The Nikkei share average edged
lower on Wednesday as investors took profits amid caution about
the long-term impact from Moody's downgrade of Japan's sovereign debt rating, 
offsetting earlier gains made on speculation of more easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve.	
Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Japan's
government debt by one notch to Aa3 on Wednesday, blaming large
budget deficits and a buildup of debt since the 2009 global
recession. 	
While stock market investors largely shrugged off the move
after Moody's had warned in May it might cut Japan's rating,
banks came under pressure, with some analysts citing fears about
the move's impact on their holdings of Japanese government
bonds.	
One analyst also said investor sentiment could take a hit in
the short term if the Moody's move spurs other agencies to
follow suit.	
"The Moody's downgrade may trigger further downgrades of
Japan's debt by other agencies," said Takahide Kiuchi, chief
economist at Nomura Securities.	
The benchmark Nikkei was down 0.2 percent at
8,716.76 at the midday break, after rising as high as 8,825.27
earlier. The broader Topix  shed 0.2 percent to 748.67.	
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks surged 3 percent on speculation that
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will signal new help for the economy
when he speaks on Friday at the central bank's annual gathering
in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 	
The meeting is widely expected to end with a controversial
decision to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S.
government debt to try to foster a stronger recovery.

Traders said that while there are hopes Bernanke will hint
at some easing, foreign investors were hesitant to take large
positions before the event.	
"For the past few days, futures players are thought to be
engaged in arbitrage trading. They are trying to make profits
within a 100-point range, and today it looks like they were
selling when the index rose above 8,800," said a trader at a
Japanese brokerage.	
NOT UNEXPECTED 
Moody's had warned in May that it might downgrade Japan's
Aa2 rating due to heightened concerns about its faltering growth
prospects and a weak policy response to deal with bulging public
debt, now twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.	
"Stock market investors had somewhat expected that it could
happen because Moody's had warned it might downgrade Japan's
sovereign debt earlier," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment
strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. 	
Unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan confirmed on Tuesday he
would step down as head of the ruling party within the week.    

"We have major developments on the political front, and
while most people in the market believe (former foreign minister
Seiji) Maehara is very likely to win the (ruling party
leadership) election, a swift policy response on debt problems
is unlikely to come out soon," said Fujito.	
The Topix banking subindex was among the biggest
decliners after the Moody's move, losing 0.8 percent. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group
fell 0.8 percent at 2,192 yen in heavy trading.

 

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropped 2.3 percent
to 334 yen. MUFG was also hit by news that the lender lost $1.8
billion from its common stock investment in Morgan Stanley
 so far, at least on paper, according to a regulatory
filing on Tuesday. 	
 But oil-related stocks outperformed, with Inpex 
rising 2.2 percent to 480,000 yen and Japan Petroleum
Exploration soaring 2.3 percent to 3,070 yen. Oil
prices rose on Tuesday on views that the Federal Reserve might
indicate fresh stimulus measures later this week, and also drew
support from fighting in Libya and disrupted Nigerian exports.
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