Japan's Nikkei ends lower, track Wall St weakness; Fed comments remain in focus

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 02/09/23 01:58 AM EST

TOKYO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei index ended lower on Thursday, marking a retreat from its near two-month highs, as the benchmark index tracked downbeat performances on Wall Street after investors positioned for a protracted period of high U.S. interest rates.

The earnings season witnessed a mix of big winners and losers. Materials maker Teijin (TINLF) and Pacific Metals posted gains of about 6% each following upbeat quarterly earnings, while Fujifilm (FUJIF) sagged 2.38%.

The Nikkei share average ended 0.08% lower at 27,584.35, but hovered above the 27,500 level it had scaled late-January. At the start of the week, the index hit its highest since mid-December at 27,821.22 amid strong earnings results.

The broader Topix inched up 0.05% to 1,985.00.

All three big U.S. stock indexes dropped overnight, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq, as a chorus of Fed speakers backed the idea of more hikes and high rates for longer.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index dropped 2.2%.

The drop hurt Japanese chip-related stocks as well. Chip-making equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron (TOELF) slumped 2.14% and shaved off 34 points off the Nikkei, making it the biggest drag. Chip-testing equipment maker Advantest (ADTTF) was next, subtracting 8.2 index points with a 1.18% slide.

"The market is shifting to the view that there won't be any monetary loosening by the Fed this year, and some people who had been thinking the peak in rates would come in March now think there's probably going to be another hike after that," Kazuo Kamitani, a strategist at Nomura in Tokyo, said.

U.S. consumer price data on Tuesday will provide a crucial clue to Fed policy direction, he said, and until then both U.S. and Japanese stock markets are likely to be broadly directionless.

Toyota Motor (TM) cut its early losses to edge up 0.18% after posting a surprise 22% rise in third-quarter operating profit.

Of the Nikkei's 225 components, 111 rose versus 107 that fell, with 7 flat. (Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Uttaresh.V)

In general the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so avoiding losses caused by price volatility by holding them until maturity is not possible.

Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully.