In just one quarter, the developed world’s biggest stock rally has given way to its worst slump.
Japan’s Topix index, up 51 percent last year, fell 8.9 percent this quarter through March 28, almost twice as much as the next-worst market, Hong Kong. The retreat is emboldening short sellers, whose trades made up as much as 36 percent of daily Tokyo Stock Exchange volume this month. Foreign investors sold 975 billion yen ($9.5 billion) of Japanese shares in one week in March, the most since the crash of 1987.
While equities struggled around the world in the first quarter, declines were worse in Japan, where the euphoria created by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the central bank’s steps to beat deflation showed signs of wearing off. An appreciating yen and concern about tomorrow’s sales-tax increase punished shares more than the rest of the world at a time when China’s slowdown, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and worry that the U.S. will raise interest rates sooner than anticipated made gains harder to come by.
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