Weaker yen boosts Japanese exporters
TOKYO -- Japanese equities struggled for direction early Thursday despite a weaker yen, even as other markets in the region were broadly higher.
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The Nikkei Stock Average was nearly unchanged in morning trade at 20,619, with the market facing more resistance as the benchmark index nears its 2015 peak, which was the highest since 1996.
"In a few hours traders may move but for now they are struggling for new trading cues, good or bad," said Masashi Murata, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.
Still, slight gains in the U.S. dollar versus the yen overnight helped support shares of exporters, as a weaker yen raises the value in local currency terms of the dollars earned by Japanese exporters abroad.
Electronics major Sharp Corp.'s (6753.TO) shares gained 3.1%, while Nintendo (7974.TO) climbed 0.9% and Toyota Motor (7203.TO) shares were up 1%.
Trading in the region was muted as several key markets were shut for holidays. Markets in South Korea and China are closed for the entire week, while Hong Kong was shut on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2%, while New Zealand's benchmark climbed 0.4%, Singapore's Straits Times Index increased 0.3% and Taiwan's Taiex rose 0.4%, after being shut on Wednesday.
Buying interest in the region was bolstered by overnight U.S. economic data, including a modest improvement in private employment. Focus will now shift to Friday's monthly jobs report for inflation cues.
In currencies, the Australian dollar fell following a sharp drop in retail sales in August. Australia's imports were also flat from the previous month, another sign of a sluggish domestic economy.
The Australian dollar was last at $0.7833 from $0.7856 before the data release. Its value could be further affected if the U.S. dollar continued its climb, said Stephen Innes, a senior trader at Oanda.
"It is becoming somewhat apparent that the Aussie is one of the currencies with the most to lose on the stronger USD narrative," said Innes.
Meanwhile, investors sold long-term Japanese debt amid a weaker yen. Yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond was 0.005 percentage point lower at 0.045%. Yields fall as bond prices rise.
In commodities, crude-oil futures were lower in Asia trade following overnight declines as fuel demand eased and output edged higher. Nymex crude prices were last down 0.2% at $49.87 a barrel, while Brent crude was down 0.1% at $55.76 a barrel.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 04, 2017 23:24 ET (03:24 GMT)