Tokyo shares open lower as strong Yen dents exporters

TOKYO (AFP) – Tokyo shares opened lower Tuesday as the surging yen hit exporters, with investors looking to remarks from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and Britain s EU membership vote later this week.

America s top central banker is scheduled to testify on monetary policy before lawmakers from Tuesday in a semiannual report, as markets try to gauge when the Fed will lift interest rates again.

“Yellen may stress concerns over the economy, which will put downward pressure on the dollar,” and propel demand for the yen, said Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.

“There s still some time until the UK referendum and there s a chance that public opinion, which had leaned towards remain, may change,” he told Bloomberg News.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.53 percent, or 85.28 points, to 15,880.02 shortly after the opening bell, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares fell 0.80 percent, or 10.29 points, to 1,268.90.

The stronger yen hit the outlook for exporters profitability, with the dollar at 103.82 yen, against 103.93 yen in New York and over 104 yen on Monday in Tokyo.

Britain s referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU is shaping up to be a tight race, according to the latest polls.

An ORB survey for the Daily Telegraph showed the “Remain” on 49 percent, unchanged from a week earlier, while “Leave” was up three points to 47 percent.

A second poll by YouGov for The Times showed “Leave” taking a slim lead of 44 percent support versus 42 percent for “Remain”.

The surveys were mostly taken after the shock murder of Jo Cox, a pro-EU Labour lawmaker and mother of two, who was shot and stabbed on the way to meet members of the public in northern England last week.