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Tokyo: Stocks fall as investors brace for US-Japan talks

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[TOKYO] Tokyo stocks fell Thursday, dragged down by banks and automakers, as investors eye Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's weekend meeting with Donald Trump.

Mr Abe heads to Washington later Thursday for a sit down with the protectionist-leaning US president, who has accused Tokyo of devaluing the yen to boost exports and slammed Toyota over a planned vehicle factory in Mexico.

"With the US-Japan meeting coming up, investors are taking more of a wait-and-see stance," said Shunichi Otsuka, general manager of research and strategy at Ichiyoshi Securities.

"With the yen acting erratically, it's difficult for investors to tilt their positions too much in one direction," he told Bloomberg News.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.53 per cent, or 99.93 points, to close at 18,907.67, while the Topix index of all first-section issues fell 0.70 per cent, or 10.60 points, to end the day at 1,513.55.

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The US dollar was trading at 112.20 yen, slightly up from 111.95 yen in New York on Wednesday afternoon but still down from 112.33 yen seen in Asia earlier in the day.

Uncertainty about the global economic outlook and a lack of detail on US economic policy has seen the US dollar fall about five per cent this year. A stronger yen is bad for Japanese exporters as it hurts their profitability.

Toyota fell 2.04 per cent to 6,255 yen while Nissan, which announces its financial results Thursday, lost 2.03 per cent to end the day at 1,109.5 yen.

Hitachi plunged 8.03 per cent to 622.3 yen on fears over losses at a stalled thermal power plant project in South Africa.

Toshiba dropped 6.74 per cent to 225.5 yen, having fallen as much as 12 per cent earlier, after Mizuho bank pointed to the possibility of the troubled firm's shares being delisted.

The company, which reports earnings next week, has been hammered by an accounting scandal and huge losses in its US nuclear power business.

Nisshinbo dropped 4.32 per cent to 1,040 yen after the auto parts maker said it cut Mexico from a list of candidate sites for a new auto parts factory owing to uncertainty over Mr Trump's trade policy.

Banks also fell. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial dropped 1.86 per cent to 740 yen and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial was off 1.62 per cent at 4,427 yen.

SoftBank ended 0.58 per cent higher at 8,734 yen after the mobile carrier said Wednesday its nine-month net profit doubled, largely because of one-off gains from the sale of a stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Takata, at the centre of the biggest-ever auto safety recall, fell 1.74 per cent to 452 yen after a report said the troubled airbag maker will post an extraordinary loss of 100 billion yen in the fiscal year to March. It confirmed the loss after markets closed.


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