Originally created 04/02/04

Tokyo stocks edge down as exporter issues sink, dollar up against yen



TOKYO -- Tokyo stocks ended lower Thursday as investors sold exporter issues Toyota and Sony. The dollar edged up against the Japanese yen.

The Nikkei Stock Average of 225 issues closed down 31.97 points, or 0.27 percent, at 11,683.42 points. On Wednesday, the index gained 21.71 points, or 0.19 percent.

The dollar was trading at 104.13 yen by late afternoon Thursday, up 0.18 yen from late Wednesday when it sank to a four-year low. It swung between 103.85 yen and 104.48 yen on Thursday in Tokyo.

On the stock market, prices edged up in early trading on the Bank of Japan's better-than-expected survey of business sentiment for March, released earlier Wednesday, the first day of Japan's new fiscal year.

The survey showed Japanese corporate sentiment improved in all sectors in the three months through March, in another indication of a Japanese economic recovery.

The index for big manufacturers for the three months through March improved to 12 from 7 in December - the best level since June 1997. The index measures the percentage of companies saying business conditions are better, minus the percentage saying they are worse.

Foreign exchange traders bought the yen after the news, sending the dollar as low as 103.85 shortly after its release, just above Wednesday's four-year low. In New York on Wednesday, the dollar sank as low as 103.44 yen - its lowest point since the spring of 2000 - as investors tested the resolve of Japanese monetary authorities to intervene in the market.

As investors grew cautious about the currency movements, selling technology and other exporter issues, the Nikkei index gave up its early gains. Electronics giants Matsushita Electric and Sony, as well as automakers Honda Motor, Nissan and Toyota, lost ground Thursday.

A weaker dollar means Japanese exporters earn fewer yen from their sales overseas.

The broader index of all issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section slipped 4.22 points, or 0.36 percent, to 1,175.01 points. The index rose 3.72 points, or 0.32 percent, on Wednesday.

On the first section, volume was an active 1.784 billion shares, up from 1.258 billion on Wednesday. Declining issues beat advancers 878 to 588, while 91 issues ended unchanged from the previous session.

In currency trading, the dollar managed to stay above the 104-yen level in later trading as players adjusted their positions to the day's news.

"Many traders decided to take profits," said Masamichi Koike, head of spot foreign exchange trading at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking.

The euro rose to $1.2296 late Thursday in Tokyo, from $1.2240 late Wednesday. Against the yen, the European currency was quoted at 127.98 yen, up from 127.18 yen.

The yield on Japan's benchmark 10-year government bond fell to 1.4200 percent from 1.4400 percent late Wednesday. Its price rose 0.17 to 98.95 points.

On the Net:

Tokyo Stock Exchange: http://www.tse.or.jp



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