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Tokyo: Stocks close lower with eyes on US-China trade row

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[TOKYO] Tokyo stocks lost ground on Tuesday as investors warily watched the latest developments in the US-China trade row, with few other fresh market-moving events.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.53 per cent, or 124.11 points, to close at 23,292.65, while the broader Topix index was down 0.23 per cent, or 3.99 points, at 1,696.73.

Investors "remain hostage" to developments in the US-China trade talks, and the latest reports from China "suggest the mood in Beijing was 'pessimistic' regarding the trade deal", Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a note.

Similarly, Okasan Online Securities chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito, said: "It is hard to seek higher share prices (in the Japanese market) unless concrete progress emerges from ongoing US-China trade talks."

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News that the United States granted another 90 days for companies to cease doing business with China's telecoms giant Huawei was however helping improve the market sentiment, Ito said in a note.

US President Donald Trump in May effectively barred Huawei from American communications networks after Washington found the company had violated US sanctions on Iran and attempted to block a subsequent investigation.

The battle over Huawei has landed squarely in the middle of Mr Trump's trade battle with Beijing.

US officials initially said the two were unrelated, but Mr Trump has suggested a resolution to the trade conflict could involve reaching some common ground on Huawei.

The dollar fetched 108.59 yen in Asian afternoon trade against 108.68 yen in New York on Monday.

In Tokyo, major exporters were lower, with Toyota losing 1.04 per cent at 7,754 yen and Honda down 0.72 per cent at 3,134 yen. Chip-making equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron dropped 1.25 per cent at 22,870 yen.

Z Holdings, formerly known as Yahoo Japan, plunged 8.05 per cent to 388 yen after adding 1.19 per cent in the previous session following its announcement of a merger with mobile messaging app Line.

SoftBank Group, a major shareholder of Z Holdings, dropped 1.33 per cent to 4,272 yen.

AFP