Japanese shares plunge amid global economic worries

Nikkei Image copyright Getty Images

Japan's markets traded sharply lower on Friday, following global markets, and as a stronger yen against the dollar hurt the country's big exporters.

In early trade, the benchmark Nikkei 225 fell as much as 5.4%. By the close, it had recovered slightly, but was still down 4.85% to 14,952.61 points.

That was below the psychologically important level of 15,000 points and its lowest close since October 2014.

Friday's losses end what has been a turbulent week of trade for Japan.

The index has shed more than 11% over the trading week, which was short because of a public holiday on Thursday.

Big exporters in Japan were hurt on Friday as the dollar fell to a 15-month low against the yen. A stronger yen against the dollar hurts Japan's exporters, as it makes their products more expensive to purchase overseas.

Toyota finished Japan's trading day down 7%, while Honda lost 5.5% and Nissan shed 5.8%.

Overnight, benchmark indexes in London, the US and Europe posted sharp declines amid continued worries about oil prices and over the strength of the global economy - particularly the outlook for the world's largest economy, the US.

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's gloomy economic assessment on Wednesday was continuing to hurt investor sentiment around the world, analysts said.

Ms Yellen said financial conditions in the US had become "less supportive" of growth, dousing hopes of a second rise in interest rates in the near future.

Why are global markets in turmoil? - Kamal Ahmed, Economics editor, BBC News

It's a mix - part economic fundamentals, part market emotion as herding investors follow each other down a negative spiral, fearful of being left beached as the tide goes out, and part brute market forces, the major trading houses looking to make a profitable turn on share prices which they bet are not going up any time soon.

Read more: Global market turmoil explained

Elsewhere in Asia

Image copyright Getty Images

Elsewhere, Australian stocks were hurt by worries over oil prices, with some energy-related stocks, together with the country's big lenders, weighing down the index.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed down 1.16% to 4,765.30 points.

Meanwhile, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index closed down 1.41% to 1,835.28, in line with regional markets.

Investors were closely watching markets in Hong Kong after the Hang Seng index shed more than 4% on Thursday. The index finished a further 1.2% lower at 18,319.58 on Friday.

The Shanghai Composite remains closed until next week for the Lunar New Year break.

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