Nikkei falls 1.78% on Middle East turmoil, Moody's downgrade

21:00, February 22, 2011      

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Tokyo stocks declined sharply Tuesday, with the key Nikkei stock index falling 1.78 percent as escalating turmoil in the Middle East spurred profit-taking and Moody's downgrade on Japan's debt outlook further dampened investor sentiment.

Snapping a six-day winning streak, brokers said it was no surprise that in light of the market's recent gains and the political instability in the Middle East, investors opted to secure profits Tuesday on speculation of the health of Japanese issues in the short to mid-term.

Losses were seen Asia-wide as violent clashes escalated in the Middle East and in Northern Africa the Libyan government attacked protesters as rebel factions claimed control of the country's second-biggest city after Muammar Gaddafi's son threatened "rivers of blood" unless the revolts end.

Gaddafi himself appeared on state television on Tuesday stating unequivocally that he had not fled a revolt against his 41-year rule and had no intention of doing so -- a comment that put global markets further on edge.

"If the situation in the Middle East gets worse and overheated Wall Street markets move lower, the Nikkei may follow suit and fall towards its 25-day moving average of 10,548.67," said Hiroaki Osakabe, a fund manager at Chibagin Asset Management.
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