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Japan 19yr low

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Nikkei plunges after Bush speech, nears 19-yr low

TOKYO, Jan. 29 (Kyodo) Tokyo stocks plunged Wednesday, bringing the Nikkei average down 2.28% to near a 19-year low, after U.S. President George W. Bush pledged Tuesday to use ''full force'' if necessary to disarm Iraq, casting a shadow over the near future of the U.S. and Japanese economies.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average slid 194.31 points to end at 8,331.08 after falling to the day's low of 8,304.05, near the post-bubble economy closing low of 8,303.39 registered Nov. 14.

The broader Tokyo Stock Price Index (TOPIX) of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) lost 15.40 points, or 1.83%, to 825.72.

Despite an overnight rise on Wall Street, stocks fell almost all across the board and expanded losses throughout the day as investors dumped shares amid increasing tensions between the United States and Iraq following Bush's State of the Union speech.

''Mr. Bush's speech renewed investor nervousness, even though the speech was not far beyond their expectations,'' said Masatoshi Sato, senior strategist at Mizuho Investors Securities Co.

Stocks were also hit by falls in technology shares, with investors refraining from buying on a weak earnings report by Fujitsu Ltd. the previous day, while waiting for the release of third-quarter earnings reports from Sony Corp., brokers said.

Fujitsu plunged 31 yen to 326 yen after announcing it posted a group net loss of 24.9 billion yen for the October-December quarter and cut its sales outlook for the full year through March 31 to 4.7 trillion yen from 4.8 trillion yen announced in October.

It was the volume leader for the day. Sony, which announced its quarterly earnings report after the trading session, slipped 90 yen to 4,760 yen. It was the most heavily traded issue by value.

Brokers said tech shares were also hit by the release of the industrial production index for December, which marked a fourth straight monthly decline.

Japan's four major banking groups lost stream for the third consecutive session amid concerns that businesses and banks are under pressure to unwind their cross-held shares ahead of March book-closings, brokers said.

Among declining issues, marine transportation, nonferrous metal and banking sectors marked the largest losses.

Volume on the TSE's main section came to 803.40 million shares, up from Tuesday's 763.14 million.

Declining issues overwhelmed advancers 1,303 to 114, with 77 issues closing unchanged.

Among major winners, JFE Holdings surged 89 yen to 1,589 yen after it released Tuesday a three-year business program that includes establishing a joint venture to produce automotive steel sheets in China while accelerating the consolidation of its steel production facilities in a bid to cut costs.

The TSE's Second Section index slipped 8.90 points, or 0.58%, to 1,519.23 on a volume of 35.23 million shares. In Osaka, the near-term March Nikkei 225 index futures contract was down 190 points to 8,330.

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday for the first time in three sessions, led by bargain-hunting and better-than-expected earnings reports by major firms such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Xerox Corp.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 99.28 points, or 1.24%, to close at 8,088.84. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index advanced 16.91 points, or 1.28%, to 1,342.18.

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