Japan leads Asia market losses

HONG KONG: Tokyo stocks led losses across Asian stock markets Friday after a closely watched survey showed confidence at Japan’s top manufacturers had fallen to a three-year low.

After a highly volatile first three months of the year, regional markets kicked off the next quarter with hefty losses, with a surprise jump in a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unable to arrest the declines in early trade.

The Bank of Japan’s quarterly Tankan report of 10,000 firms showed sentiment plunged in January-March to plus six from 12. The survey marks the difference between the percentage of firms that are upbeat and those that see conditions as unfavourable. Forecasts had been for a reading of plus eight.

The figures are the worst since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put his growth drive fully into action in 2013 and will ramp up pressure on him as the economy struggles to gain traction.

Analysts also said the figures will likely push the central bank to unveil another round of monetary easing measures, on top of the huge bond-buying scheme already under way and after an unprecedented move to negative interest rates. AFP