December 21, 2018 / 6:50 AM / 9 months ago

Nikkei slides to new 15-month low; U.S. worries, stronger yen weigh

* Nikkei, Topix on track for worst quarter since 2008 crisis

* Highly cyclical shippers, financials lead losses

* Stronger yen weighs on exporters

* Wall St battered as post-Fed disappointment sours mood

By Tomo Uetake

TOKYO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Japanese shares fell further on Friday, with major indexes plumbing fresh multi-month lows, as worries about further hikes in borrowing costs and a government shutdown in the United States raised concerns about the economic outlook.

The benchmark Nikkei share average lost 1.1 percent to 20,166.19, after shedding a hefty 2.8 percent on Thursday. The index is heading for its worst quarter since the 2008 global financial crisis, with a loss of 16.4 percent so far.

The broader Topix closed at 1.488.19, down 1.9 percent. It has shed 22.1 percent from its January peak and is sinking deeper into a bear market.

“Global investors have completely capitulated after there was no Powell put,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments, referring to dashed hopes of more dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The market had hoped the Fed would slow, or pause, rate hikes in 2019-20.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nikkei falls below the 20,000-mark. Investors are getting increasingly suspicious about the valuation. No one would wants to buy now until they get some idea of how bad the situation could get,” he said.

In the United States, President Donald Trump made plans to pull American forces out of Afghanistan and pushed the U.S. government toward a partial shutdown this weekend over funding for a border wall.

Also on Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis, a widely respected figure seen as a stabilizing influence inside the administration, handed in his resignation after arguing with Trump over foreign policy in a White House meeting.

The safe-haven Japanese yen benefited from the brittle sentiment, putting an additional pressure on Tokyo shares. The dollar/yen dropped to 110.815 overnight to its weakest since early September.

Toyota Motors dropped 3.1 percent and Panasonic fell 2.9 percent.

Signs that the U.S. bond yield curve could invert soon are keeping many investors away from buying shares, especially cyclical stocks such as shippers and financials, with shipper Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha slumping 5.3 percent.

Other notable movers included Otsuka Kagu, which jumped 30.4 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported the furnishing chain store group would partner with Beijing Easyhome.

Familymart Uny fell and Don Quijote fell 6.3 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, after Familymart said the convenience store chain operator’s tender offer for Don Quijote came well below target.

Nissan Motor shares retreated 2.0 percent after Japanese prosecutors re-arrested its ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn on fresh allegations of aggravated breach of trust.

Stock markets in Japan will be closed on Monday for a national holiday. (Reporting by Tomo Uetake Editing by Sunil Nair)

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