Tokyo stocks lose 2 per cent over swine flu fears

Japan EconomyTokyo - Tokyo stocks lost more than 2 per cent to close Tuesday trading on fears of swine flu and concerns over the US economy. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average plunged 232.57 points, or 2.67 per cent, to close at 8,493.77.

The broader Topix index of all first-section issues was also down 21.11 points, or 2.53 per cent, at 811.99.

The market entered positive territory at the end of morning trading on pharmaceutical shares.

But selling took over in the afternoon session as the yen's advance against the US dollar hurt export-oriented issues, especially the auto and electronics sectors, and reports of spreading swine flu increased fears among investors.

First detected in Mexico, at least 26 of the country's 149 suspected swine flu cases have been confirmed, with the illness also spreading to the United States, Europe and Asian nations.

The Japanese government and businesses have encouraged people to wear face masks, wash hands and gargle frequently to prevent the virus spread.

Japan's markets will be closed Wednesday for national Greenery Day holiday. Trading is to resume Thursday.

On currency markets at midday (0300 GMT), the dollar was quoted at 96.34-37 yen, down from Monday's 5 pm quote of 96.72-73 yen.

The euro traded at 1.3010-15 dollars, down from late Monday's quote of 1.3165-67 dollars, and at 125.27-32 yen, down from 127.33-37 yen.(dpa)