TOKYO -- Japanese stock prices nosedived to their lowest levels in a dozen years today when fears about global financial turmoil and the stalled domestic economy prompted a broad sell-off.
The dollar slipped against the yen.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average closed below the 14,000 points, losing 498.16 points, or 3.46 percent, to finish the week at 13,915.63.
It was the Nikkei's lowest finish since March 6, 1986, when it closed at 13,901.56, and the third consecutive day of falls -- Wednesday's 206.90-point fall and a 452.24-point, or 3.04-percent, drop Thursday.
"It's difficult to find where the bottom line will be at this time," said Masaru Takagi, an economics professor at Tokyo's Meiji University.
Traders said declines in world financial markets were rattling each market, with U.S. stock prices being influenced by financial turmoil in Russia and Asia and Asian stock markets being affected by movements in the United States and elsewhere.
The Nikkei average trimmed some of its early losses by midday on bargain-hunting by institutional investors, but selling intensified again toward the closing bell.
Japanese share prices plunged almost across the board, as foreign and domestic institutional investors as well as individual Japanese investors sold shares.
Masaru Arai, general manager at Ryoko Securities Co., said the Japanese government should inject public funds into the market before domestic stocks become non-performing assets, like real estate.
World stock markets went into free fall as news reports spread that Russian President Boris Yeltsin may soon resign because of his nation's financial crisis. The Kremlin denied the reports.
Uncertainty buffeted other stock markets, with the Dow Jones industrial average in New York shed a roughly 4 percent decline on Thursday.
Another factor weighing on the market was poor earnings prospects for Japanese companies amid the nation's worst recession in decades.
Taichi Sakaiya, director general of Japan's Economic Planning Agency told reporters that the nation's economy for April-June and July-September quarters may show negative growth as the economic condition remains "extremely severe."
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi wants to commit public funds to bailing out large banks saddled with bad debts, such as the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan Ltd., but opposition lawmakers are demanding more extensive reform. Parliament continued debating the measure.
LTCB, the most actively traded issue, was up 3 yen at 54 yen with 15.01 million shares changing hands today.
The broader Tokyo Stock Price Index of all issues listed on the first section was down 29.98 points, or 2.68 percent, at 1,086.99. The TOPIX closed down 30.24 points, or 2.64 percent, the day before.
Trading remained fairly active, with 565 million shares changing hands on the first section, up from Thursday's 505 million shares. Declining issues outnumbered advancers 1,095 to 133, with 75 issues unchanged.
In late afternoon, the dollar bought 143.32 yen, down 0.34 yen from late Thursday in Tokyo but above its late New York rate of 142.18 yen overnight. Trades ranged between 140.20 yen and 144.25 yen in today's trading.
The dollar, which remained around 141.00 yen for much of today's trading, gained ground after an unfounded rumor late afternoon that a major Japanese commercial bank was in severe financial trouble, traders said.
Meanwhile, the yield on the benchmark No. 182 10-year Japanese government bond fell to 1.070 percent from Thursday's finish of 1.115 percent, driving its price up to 112.65 yen from 112.32 yen.
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