Japan: Nikkei ends at 16-yr low, plunges456 pts or 3.6%

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Monday March 12, 1:14 am Eastern Time Nikkei ends at 16-yr low, econ package disappoints By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO, March 12 (Reuters) - Tokyo's key Nikkei average plunged to a fresh 16-year closing low on Monday after scepticism over the ruling coalition's economic package and a Nasdaq tumble overwhelmed better-than-expected gross domestic product data.

Leading Tokyo's decline were chip shares, including NEC Corp , which followed their U.S. counterparts lower. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index (^SOXX - news) fell 7.14 percent on Friday.

``What market players were dying to see in the package were concrete measures to clean up banks' bad loans, which were barely touched upon in the proposals,'' said Akira Hiramine, chief investment officer at fund manager Invesco Asset Management.

The package, unveiled last Friday, included a mix of policy proposals ranging from lowering taxes on stock dividends to setting up a special fund to absorb stock sales, but failed to go into details on how to rid banks of non-performing loans.

The benchmark Nikkei average closed down 456.53 points or 3.62 percent at 12,171.37, the lowest close since April 1985. The capital-weighted TOPIX index (^TOPX - news) fell 31.78 points or 2.57 percent to 1,205.98. http://biz.yahoo.com/rf/010312/tau024458.html

-- Carl Jenkins (somewherepress@aol.com), March 12, 2001

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