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Nikkei drifts down to 22,598 before Japan-U.S. trade talks

JIJI

Stocks closed slightly lower Thursday, with investors retreating to the sidelines ahead of new trade talks between Japan and the United States.

The 225-issue Nikkei average shed 45.92 points, or 0.20 percent, to end at 22,598.39 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange after losing 18.43 points on Wednesday.

The Topix index of all first-section issues lost 4.55 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 1,740.16. It fell 1.34 points the previous day.

Selling outpaced buying in morning trading amid escalating trade friction between the U.S. and China, market sources said.

The market gradually trimmed its losses in the afternoon thanks to buying on dips, leaving the Nikkei average fluctuating around Wednesday’s closing level toward the close, the sources said.

The market met with “selling to adjust positions ahead of the trade talks,” Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Naito Securities Co., said. The new ministerial trade talks were set to be held in Washington later Thursday.

Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co., said investors were cautious about whether the new talks will have an impact on the dollar-yen exchange rates and Japanese stock prices.

Thursday’s fall came after “many (major Japanese) companies released dismal earnings on Wednesday,” an official of a bank-affiliated securities firm said.

An official of a midsize securities firm said Tokyo stocks cut losses in the afternoon thanks to the strength of the Shanghai stock market and the yen’s weakening against the dollar.

Falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,157 to 849 in the TSE’s first section, while 98 issues were unchanged.

Volume fell to 1.310 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.449 billion shares.

Automakers Mazda and Suzuki were downbeat following a newspaper report Thursday about the discovery of improper fuel economy and emissions tests for new vehicles.

Also on the minus side were semiconductor equipment maker Tokyo Electron and mobile phone carrier Softbank Group.

By contrast, industrial materials maker Showa Denko attracted purchases after its forecast for operating profit for the year through December, announced Wednesday, beat the market consensus, brokers said.

Other major winners included cosmetics maker Shiseido and clothing retailer Fast Retailing.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key September contract on the Nikkei average sagged 30 points to 22,600.