Thursday, February 28, 2008

Japan Stock Futures Drop on Stronger Yen, Slowing U.S. Economy

By Masaki Kondo

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average futures dropped in Chicago after the yen strengthened against the dollar and the U.S. economy grew slower than expected last quarter.

U.S.-traded receipts of Canon Inc., the world's biggest digital-camera maker, retreated 2.5 percent from the closing share price in Tokyo yesterday. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. declined 2.3 percent, while Honda Motor Co. slid 1.8 percent.

The yen strengthened against the dollar to as much as 105.08 from 106.35 at the close of stock trading in Tokyo yesterday. U.S. gross domestic product rose at a 0.6 percent annualized rate, lower than the 0.8 percent pace estimated by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Aeon Corp., Japan's biggest supermarket operator, said annual profit missed its target.

``We have lots of bad news inside and outside of the country,'' Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd., which manages about $57 billion in assets, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. ``Day by day, the risk of an economic slowdown in the U.S. heightens, and the outlook for the Japanese economy is worrisome too.''

Nikkei 225 Stock Average futures expiring in March last traded at 13,685 in Chicago, down from the close of 13,920 in Osaka and 13,895 in Singapore yesterday. The Bank of New York Japan ADR Index, which tracks American depositary receipts of Japanese companies, slumped 1.2 percent.

The Nikkei dropped 0.8 percent to 13,925.51 yesterday, while the broader Topix index lost 0.8 percent to 1,353.10.

Below Estimate

Aeon yesterday said net income in the year to Feb. 20 fell 24 percent to about 44 billion yen ($418 million), below a forecast range of 60 billion yen to 63 billion yen. The company cited a writedown on a supermarket subsidiary, the performance of its credit-card business and lower-than-expected earnings at a U.S. unit.

Japan's unemployment rate stood at 3.8 percent for a third- straight month in January, the statistics bureau said today. Core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food, rose 0.8 percent last month from a year earlier, the agency said.

Today, Seven Bank Ltd., which solely operates through automated teller machines in convenience stores, will start trading on the Jasdaq Securities Exchange. The initial public offering price is set at 140,000 yen.

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