Nikkei falls back slightly amid wait-and-see mood

The benchmark Nikkei average turned slightly lower on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Thursday amid a wait-and-see mood prior to the French presidential election on Sunday.

The 225-issue Nikkei average lost 1.71 points, or 0.01 percent, to close at 18,430.49. On Wednesday, the key market gauge rose 13.61 points.

But the Topix index of all first-section issues finished up 1.39 points, or 0.09 percent, at 1,472.81, after falling 0.11 point the previous day.

Stocks got off to a firmer start despite the Dow Jones industrial average’s overnight fall in New York. A pause in the yen’s rise against the dollar helped support mainstay issues, brokers said.

But the market’s topside was capped as investors retreated to the sidelines before the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, sending the Nikkei average to negative territory late in the afternoon session, according to brokers.

“In addition to the yen’s failure to strengthen further, gains in semiconductor-related issues supported the market,” reflecting the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index’s overnight rise on the back of brisk U.S. corporate earnings, said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Naito Securities Co.

“But considering that recent winners, such as game-related issues, met with selling today, it seems that little fresh funds flowed into the market,” Tabei said. Investors are cautious about dollar-yen rate fluctuations ahead of the French election and the two-day meeting from later on Thursday of finance ministers and central banker chiefs of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies, he added.

“Investors are sensitive to exchange rate movements before earnings reports are released by major (Japanese) companies soon,” Tabei said.

An official of an asset management firm said that investors are unlikely to take risks at least until after the results of the French election come out.

Rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,091 to 792 in the TSE’s first section, while 132 issues were unchanged.

Volume fell to 1.84 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.95 billion shares.

Oil companies Idemitsu, JXTG Holdings and Showa Shell came under heavy selling after the key crude oil futures contract hit a two-week low in New York trading Wednesday.

Brewers Asahi Group and Kirin, drug makers Takeda and Otsuka Holdings and game makers Nintendo and DeNA were downbeat.

Japan Post turned sharply lower following a news report that the company is considering booking an impairment loss over its acquisition of an Australian logistics firm in 2015.

Also on the minus side were mobile phone carrier KDDI and industrial robot-maker Fanuc, both heavyweights of the Nikkei average.

By contrast, automakers Toyota, Subaru, Nissan and Honda attracted buying. Semiconductor-related Tokyo Electron, electronic parts producer Murata Manufacturing and camera maker Canon were also buoyant.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average ended up 60 points at 18,470.

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