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Tokyo: Stocks close lower ahead of Japan-US trade talks

[TOKYO] Tokyo stocks slipped Thursday, dragged by a stronger yen and caution ahead of Japan-US trade talks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.20 per cent, or 45.92 points, to 22,598.39, while the broader Topix index lost 0.26 per cent, or 4.55 points, to 1,740.16.

"After Wall Street ended mixed overnight, investors became wary of seeing a firmer yen in the morning. That meant the Nikkei opened under selling pressure," Okasan Online Securities chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito said in a commentary.

"Ahead of the Japan-US trade talks, a wait-and-see mood prevailed in the market," he said.

The Nikkei trimmed earlier losses once Chinese shares started moving into positive territory, he added.

The dollar sank to 110.71 yen in the morning from 110.96 yen in New York Wednesday, before rebounding in the afternoon.

In the midst of a bitter trade spat with China, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is to meet Japan's economic revitalisation minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Washington on Thursday.

Japan is hoping to win concessions on threatened US auto tariffs, which pose a threat to the industry if implemented.

"Although concrete outcomes are not expected, we may still get a sense of how far apart or not the two nations are," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a client note.

Automakers were lower, with Toyota down 1.01 per cent at 6,990 yen.

Selling was particularly heavy for Suzuki Motor, along with Mazda and motorcycle maker Yamaha, after the government said the firms cheated on fuel-efficiency and emissions tests in the latest data-falsification scandal to hit Japanese companies.

Suzuki tumbled 6.04 per cent to 6,944 yen and Mazda lost 1.30 per cent to 1,327 yen. Yamaha Motor gave up 4.63 per cent to 2,820 yen.

SoftBank Group fell 0.38 per cent to 10,490 yen after Bloomberg News reported Tesla chief Elon Musk and SoftBank head Masayoshi Son held unsuccessful talks last year about the Japanese group investing in the US electric car maker.