Hostage crisis sends Tokyo down
(CNN) -- Japan's stock market closed sharply lower Friday over political uncertainty following the capture of three Japanese civilians by militants in Iraq.
The Nikkei 225 average, which on Thursday hit a fresh 32-month closing high of 12,092.59, finished down 1.61 percent at 11,897.51.
The broader Topix fell by a similar margin, closing down 1.57 percent to 1190.86.
Japanese investors were rattled by television images showing the three hostages being manhandled by their captors, who have threatened to burn them alive unless Japanese troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rejected the militants' demands and said there was no possibility of Japanese troops being pulled out. (Full story)
South Korea's Kospi index also finished in the red, down 1.25 percent to 905.04, after seven Korean missionaries were captured and subsequently released in Iraq. (Full story)
Like Japan, South Korea has non-combat forces already in Iraq, and plans to send more soon.
Jake Moore, of Barclays Capital in Tokyo, told CNN Friday that the equity and currency markets did not like political uncertainty and would feel "very nervous" about the developments in Iraq.
He said the main impact was on investor sentiment. Japanese exporters in particular had "a lot to lose" because of their recent strong performance.
Taiwan was also down, with the Taiex off about 0.8 percent to 6620.36.
Markets in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Indonesia and New Zealand were closed Friday for the Easter holidays.
In Tokyo, the dollar traded at 106.44 yen late in the day.
Consumer electronics leader Sony finished down 1.8 percent to 4400 yen, Hitachi was off 2.9 percent to 806 yen and Fujitsu was 2.5 percent lower. NEC and NEC Electronics both closed about 3.5 percent in the red.
Carmakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda were also down, with Nissan off 1.6 percent to 1199 yen.
Big telecoms stocks NTT DoCoMo, NTT and KDDI. DoCoMo fell 0.85 percent to 232,000 yen.
Big banks, which made strong gains earlier in the week, were sharply lower. Mizuho slipped 3.6 percent to 486,000 yen and UFJ was down 3 percent to 718,000 yen.
Ito-Yokado, Asia's second-biggest retailer, was down 3.2 percent to 4800 yen after putting on 7.6 percent in the previous two days on expectations of strong earnings.
Security concerns pushed the country's two main airlines, Japan Airlines System Corp and All Nippon Airways (ANA), into the red, with Japan Airlines down 3.1 percent to 344 yen and ANA fell 2.5 percent to 351 yen.
In Seoul, big exporter Hyundai Motor fell 2.3 percent to 54,200 won and market heavyweight Samsung Electronics eased 1.65 percent to 595,000 won.
SK Telecom closed 2.4 percent lower to 201,500 won.
In Taiwan, there were falls of 1.8 percent for UMC and Formosa Plastic. TSMC closed 1.6 percent lower at T$60.00.
The moves in Asia came after a mixed day on Wall Street Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.36 percent, while the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.13 percent to 2052.88. (Full story)