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Tokyo stocks fall 1.17% on strong yen

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Tokyo stocks fell 1.17 percent Friday as a stronger yen took the air out of the market after another round of discouraging US data, with investors now gearing up for the Japanese earnings season.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 232.89 points to close at 19,652.88, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares was down 0.67 percent, or 10.73 points, to 1,588.69.

Tokyo’s slide followed a limp session on Wall Street with the dollar taking a hit as new figures disappointed, narrowing the likelihood of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike in early summer.

Government data showed Thursday that US housing starts rose less than expected in March, while initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, increased well above estimates to their highest level in six weeks.

News Wednesday that the Chinese economy grew at its slowest quarterly pace in six years has rekindled concerns about future growth — China is a major market for Japanese goods — while investors were also nervously watching the slow progress in Greece’s bailout talks.

In forex markets the dollar slipped to 118.93 yen, against 119.04 yen in New York and 119.33 yen in Tokyo earlier Thursday.

A stronger yen is negative for Japanese exporters as it makes them less competitive abroad and erode profits when repatriated.

Japanese corporate earnings season gets into full swing later this month.

But “earnings expectations have already been priced in for the most part”, Juichi Wako, a senior strategist at Nomura Holdings, told Bloomberg News.

“In that sense we’re in a state of wait-and-see.”

In trading, Sharp tumbled 5.77 percent to 261.0 yen following a report in the leading Nikkei business daily that the electronics firm had reached a deal with its banks for a 200 billion yen investment to prop up its ailing balance sheet.

Sony fell 3.69 percent to 3,555.5 yen as WikiLeaks published thousands of documents from last year’s hacking scandal at the company’s US-based film studio.

McDonald’s Holdings Japan fell 0.52 percent to 2,636.0 after it announced a bigger-than-expected loss forecast, store closures and senior executive pay cuts, as it looks to turn the page on a series of scares including the discovery of a human tooth in some fries.

On Wall Street, the Dow slipped 0.04 percent Thursday while the S&P 500 edged down 0.08 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.06 percent.


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