TOKYO Japan's Nikkei share average shed 1.8 percent to a 2-1/2 month closing low on Tuesday, hurt by uncertainty on the euro zone and concerns over U.S. economic growth, while a strong yen weighed on exporters.
The Nikkei closed down 169.94 points at 9,350.95, breaking below its 75-day moving average near 9,463, after losing 5.6 percent in April to end a four-month winning streak.
"We have seen profit-taking in cyclicals and obviously the yen is not helping ... There is a lot of selling in autos," a dealer at a U.S. bank said, adding that low volumes exaggerated the drop in the Nikkei.
Exporters bore the brunt of the rallying yen, which held near a two-month high against the dollar after weak data from the United States and Europe, despite further moves by the Bank of Japan on Friday to pull the economy out of deflation.
China's official purchasing managers' index also failed to inspire. Although it rose to a 13-month high of 53.3 in April, it undershot market expectations of 53.6.
Sony Corp (6758.T) shed 3.9 percent, Toyota Motor lost 3.5 percent and Honda Motor (7267.T) dropped 3.4 percent.
TDK Corp (6762.T) sagged 6.6 percent as its operating profit forecast for the year ending March 2013 came in below market expectations.
Investors were also unimpressed by Sharp, which is looking to offset continued losses in its television and liquid crystal display business this fiscal year with earnings from household appliances and printers. The stock lost 9.3 percent to 468 yen after falling to a 28-year low of 465 yen.
The electronics sector's earnings outlook has improved markedly, however. The one-month earnings momentum - analysts' earnings upgrades minus downgrades as a total of estimates - for the sector improved to 11 percent in April from 4 percent the previous month, data from Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S showed.
The sector's earnings momentum was also better than the Topix's .TOPX 5.4 percent.
The broader Topix lost 1.8 percent to 789.49, breaking below 800 for the first time since mid-February.
TIME FOR A BARGAIN?
Uncertainty surrounding the euro zone intensified as Spain said on Monday it has fallen into recession after its economy contracted in the first quarter, as severe government cuts to reduce the deficit hampered growth.
The prospect of French and Greek elections in May that could impact future decisions on strategies to contain the euro zone debt crisis boosted bearish sentiment further.
Trading volume on the main board was light, with 1.65 billion shares changing hands, down from 2.19 billion on Friday, as most Asian markets were closed on Tuesday and the Tokyo market will be shut on Thursday and Friday for national holidays.
Hideyuki Ishiguro, assistant manager for investment strategy at Okasan Securities, said investors could be on the look out for bargains.
"Investors might also begin to pick up some good deals as there are a lot of attractively priced stocks with the Topix below 800," he said.
Tokyo Electron Ltd could be among them. The stock lost 8.3 percent on Tuesday after its 2012/13 operating profit guidance came in below market expectations.
Although Credit Suisse said it was disappointed with the earnings guidance, it remained positive on Tokyo Electron's outlook and recommended investors buy on dips.
"We have expectations for a H2 rebound in memory prices and think that any share price falls driven by these results actually represent opportunities to accumulate from a longer-term investment perspective," it said in a note.
Deutsche Bank said investors should focus on companies with the ability to expand profit margins instead of looking at profit growth when they pick stocks.
Among the firms it highlighted were Toyota Motor, aluminium sash maker JS Group (5938.T), Hello Kitty toy maker Sanrio Co (8136.T), Casio Computer Co Ltd (6952.T), electronic parts maker Hirose Electric Co Ltd (6806.T), Hitachi Cable Ltd and nonferrous metal smelter Mitsubishi Materials Corp (5711.T).
(Additional reporting by Sophie Knight; Editing by Joseph Radford)