By Laura He, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japan stocks sold off on Friday amid geopolitical worries, as the benchmark index suffered its worst daily percentage decline since mid-March.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday morning that he had authorized airstrikes in Northern Iraq as needed, adding to concerns over geopolitical risks in the Middle East and Ukraine.
The yen, as a traditional safe-haven currency, was bid sharply higher. The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1451% declined to ¥101.691, from ¥102.175 the previous day.
The benchmark Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.39% tumbled 3% to close at 14,778.37, its lowest settlement in more than two months. The broader Topix index /zigman2/quotes/210598092/delayed JP:180460 +0.24% also ended 2.4% lower.
Exporter shares were hit hard as the yen firmed. Camera maker Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 -0.10% was down 9.4%, rival Olympus Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200860615/delayed JP:7733 +1.11% sank 7.1%, semiconductor firm Renesas Electronics Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203872935/delayed JP:6723 +1.85% slid 4.2%, and IT service provider Fujitsu /zigman2/quotes/208459594/delayed JP:6702 +0.43% lost 3.7%.
Several other Asian markets also suffered losses, as Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.02% fell 1.3%, South Korea’s Kospi Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.46% dropped 1.1%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.02% edged down 0.2%.
However, mainland China market was the stand-out winner in the region, after China reported a much stronger-than-expected growth in exports for July. The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.10% rebounded 0.3%, breaking a three-day losing streak.
Data showed earlier in the day that China’s exports climbed 14.5% in July from a year earlier, well above the 8% rise forecast in a Wall Street Journal survey of economists.
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