The Nikkei stock index lost 0.64 percent Tuesday tracking overnight losses on Wall Street as oil prices tumbled to more than five-year lows although losses were capped as the yen eventually erased gains versus the U.S. dollar and euro in later trade.
The Nikkei 225 lost 110.02 points to close at 17,087.71, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares fell 0.43 percent, or 5.89 points, to finish at 1,374.69. Markets were closed on Monday for a national holiday.
Analysts here said the market was reacting to falling prices of crude oil, compounded by Wall Street heavyweights Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA cutting their price forecasts for crude based on the likelihood that the global surplus will continue and stockpiles in the U.S. will continue to increase.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery dropped 82 U.S. cents at 45.25 U.S. dollars a barrel in trade this afternoon, while Brent crude, another key gauge for the resource, fell 99 U.S. cents to 46.44 U.S. dollars. The gauges fell to their lowest since March and April 2009 respectively. "Falling oil prices are dragging U.S. earnings and wages lower. We're seeing some worries beginning to appear about the U.S. economy," said Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co. in Tokyo.