TOKYO -- If traders long Japanese stocks thought Wednesday was bad, Thursday was downright terrible.

After the


near 5.6% drop overnight, and ahead of Friday's expiries of May Nikkei 225 option contracts, Tokyo shares were beaten down all day, as fresh lows were registered almost every minute of the session.

The key Nikkei 225 index plunged 819.01 points, or 4.6%, to 16,882.46, its lowest close since September 27 of last year. The


index, which includes all shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section, lost 59.13, or 3.6%, to 1600.73, the


small-cap index fell 5.70, or 5.9%, to 90.67, while the Nikkei over-the-counter index shed 83.93, or 4.2%, to 1925.33.

Besides Nasdaq moves and option expiries, news that foreign investors last month had turned net sellers of Japanese equities for the first time since September 1998 spooked many investors. Many traders note that the selling over the past few days had not been caused by massive foreign sales. Rather, this had been reactive selling by domestic investors and dealers, caught by surprise at the change in foreign sentiment toward the market.

However, mutual fund managers were seen picking up tech shares amid the fray, no doubt taking advantage of the fact that prices had been knocked down to levels at which the first wave of tech shares rallied in Japan.

Most large cap tech shares were sharply lower.


(SNE) - Get Report

shed 370 yen, or 3.1%, to 11,440,


lost 2000, or 8.0%, to 23,000,

Matsushita Electric Industrial

(MC) - Get Report

fell 270, or 9.1%, to 2700 and


lost 63, or 5.8%, to 1017. Securities firms, which had turned into market darlings as long as the stock market rallied, tumbled. Investors sold off

Nomura Securities


, down 160, or 5.9%, to 2555, and picked up electric utilities instead.

The greenback slowly inched higher against the yen and fetched 109.79.


All Ordinaries

index shed 45, or 1.5%, to 2966.8, as the market was shocked by a 3% fall in

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

shares even, though the media group said its third quarter earnings rose to A$300 million.



index tumbled 209.96, or 2.5%, to 8349.91 on worries that the tech fallout in the U.S. would hurt domestic chipmakers' sales and profits. After falling almost 10% this week, Thailand's


index shed 9.08, or 2.6%, to 334.45.

Markets in Hong Kong and Korea were closed for national holidays.