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Tokyo: Stocks close lower ahead of 10-day holiday

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[TOKYO] Tokyo stocks closed lower on Friday amid investor caution ahead of an unprecedented 10 days of holidays beginning this weekend, with a stronger yen against the dollar also weighing on the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.22 per cent, or 48.85 points, to end at 22,258.73, while the broader Topix index was off 0.15 per cent, or 2.35 points, at 1,617.93.

"A strong yen depressed market sentiment while investors were adjusting their positions ahead of the long holidays," said Daiwa Securities chief technical analyst Eiji Kinouchi.

Japanese investors were mindful of fears of a repeat of the flash crash seen during Tokyo's New Year holidays, which temporarily boosted the yen against the dollar.

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"We think the length of this holiday is an actual risk," Mr Kinouchi told AFP.

"But the chances of a repeat appear lower as investors are well prepared after experiencing the January flash crash," he added.

The dollar traded at 111.67 yen in Asian afternoon trade, slightly up from 111.61 yen in New York but still down from 112 yen levels seen earlier this week.

Investors were also closely watching corporate earnings reports, analysts said.

In Tokyo, Nintendo was down 1.32 per cent to 38,000 yen following two pieces of major news about the company.

Late Thursday, it unveiled its latest earnings results, showing its full-year profit jumping nearly 40 per cent year-on-year to 194 billion yen.

And on Friday, it said was working with Chinese Internet giant Tencent to roll out its popular Switch console in China.

Even though the latter "is definitely positive news", the shares are down "because people wanted to square positions before the holidays", Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute told AFP.

Elsewhere, chip-testing equipment maker Advantest dived 8.85 per cent to 3,140 yen after it said its full-year operating profit for the year to March 2020 will drop 53.6 per cent to 30 billion yen.

Sony was down 0.85 per cent at 5,212 yen. Following the closing bell, Sony said its net profit rose to record highs for the second consecutive year.

Investors mainly shrugged off a series of official data released before the opening bell.

Japan's industrial output in March fell 0.9 per cent month-on-month after a 0.7 per cent rise the previous month, the industry ministry said.

Other data confirmed Japan's labour market remains tight, with the unemployment rate edging up by 0.2 percentage point to 2.5 per cent but the job offers-to-applicants ratio unchanged at 1.63 - meaning 163 jobs are available for every 100 job seekers.

AFP