March 25, 2019 / 2:19 AM / 4 months ago

Nikkei hits five-week low on renewed fears of global slowdown

* Insurers, banks fall on U.S. Treasury yield curve inversion

* Makers of factory automation equipment fall

* SoftBank Group on track for biggest drop since late Dec.

* Eisai falls to daily limit-low again

* All of Topix’s 33 subsectors in the red

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO, March 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei sold off sharply on Monday as investors moved into bonds and other assets perceived as safe amid renewed fears of a global economic slowdown.

The Nikkei share average was last down 3.09 percent at 20,958.79, paring some losses after dipping to its lowest since Feb. 15.

The benchmark index was on track for its steepest daily fall in percentage terms since losing 5 percent in late December.

The broader Topix fell 2.65 percent to 1,574.25, hovering near a two-week low, with all of its 33 subsectors trading in negative territory.

On Friday, the spread between yields of U.S. three-month Treasury bills exceeded those of 10-year notes for the first time since 2007.

The inversion of the Treasury yield curve suggested the world’s largest economy could slide into recession and reignited fears of a deepening slowdown in the global economy.

Japanese insurers and banks, which seek higher yielding products such as U.S. bonds, sold off sharply on Monday, weighed down by the inversion of part of the U.S. yield curve.

Dai-ichi Life Holdings shed 3.3 percent, T&D Holdings was off 3.9 percent and Tokio Marine Holdings dropped 1.7 percent.

“Insurers react negatively as it becomes harder for them to manage assets,” said Eiji Kinouchi, chief technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.

Banks were also down, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group 3.2 percent lower and Mizuho Financial Group off 1.7 percent.

Shares of companies that are relatively sensitive to the global economic outlook, such as factory automation equipment makers, lost ground on Monday.

Fanuc fell 3.9 percent while Keyence, an index heavyweight, gave up 0.9 percent.

Daiwa’s Kinouchi said firms that are relatively sensitive to the global outlook may rebound on robust stimulus in China - just as many had done after a sell off in December.

Index heavyweight SoftBank Group dropped 5.7 percent, putting it on track for its biggest daily loss since late December last year.

The drug sector remained in the spotlight, falling 3.9 percent.

Drug maker Eisai Co was set to fall nearly 20 percent to a daily-limit low of 6,065 yen after the company and its partner Biogen Inc said last week they had scrapped trials of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug.

The news weighed on other pharmaceutical names for a second session, with Astellas Pharmaceutical down 3.9 percent and Takeda Pharmaceutical giving up 2.5 percent. (Reporting by Daniel Leussink; editing by Darren Schuettler)

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