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Tokyo's Nikkei index ends near five-month low

[TOKYO] Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index hit a near five-month low Monday due to a strong yen, with steelmakers and other exporters falling amid lingering fears of a trade war.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.66 per cent or 139.55 points to 21,042.09, the lowest since mid-October. The broader Topix index was down 0.79 per cent or 13.55 points at 1,694.79.

Wall Street stocks had finished mostly higher on Friday as bargain-hunting in technology shares offset worries of a trade war after US President Donald Trump vowed tariffs on imported steel and aluminium and other goods.

"But market sentiment remains fragile as shares in New York have yet to show strong recovery, while investors are concerned about a strong yen," said Hikaru Sato, senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.

The dollar was trading at 105.54 yen on Monday against 105.73 yen in New York Friday.

"The current level of the yen against the dollar is still acceptable but selling pressure will grow if the dollar falls below 105 yen," Mr Sato told AFP.

In Tokyo trade, steelmakers kept falling after plunges on Friday.

Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal lost 1.83 per cent to 2,376.5 yen and JFE Holdings was off 2.49 per cent at 2,286 yen.

Kobe Steel sank 1.50 per cent to 1,109 yen following weekend reports that its chief executive was considering stepping down after a scandal over fake quality data.

A stronger yen was also weighing on other exporters, with Toyota down 1.47 per cent at 6,814 yen and Nintendo dropping 5.10 per cent to 46,120 yen.

The euro was buying US$1.2315 against US$1.2300 on Friday as exit polls showed media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition was set to win the most votes in Italy and a centre-left party agreed to join a new coalition in Germany.

"Following the two big political events, the market has already shifted its focus to an ECB meeting this week," Masakazu Satou, senior analyst at Gaitame Online, told AFP.