Japan Blue-chip Stocks Seesaw, As Retailers Weigh On Market

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Japanese stocks meandered in early Friday trade amid year-end positioning and holiday-thinned volumes, with the Nikkei Average little changed, swinging between minor gains and losses on the back of a 0.3% retreat the previous day. The broader Topix, however, held to a 0.2% advance. A flood of data released just ahead of the open offered a mixed picture, with inflation slowing but in line with forecasts, while household spending fell by less than predicted, but industrial output showed a surprise contraction. The yen barely reacted to the numbers, with the dollar at �120.36. On the other hand, retailer shares apparently didn't like the 1.2% gain for November sales at the large chains, with Fast Retailing Co. down 0.3%, J. Front Retailing Co. dropping a heftier 1.4%, Takashimaya Co. down 0.7%, and Lawson Inc. off 0.6%. Also weighing on the market were the beverage majors, many of which traded without rights to the latest dividend, sending Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. down 1.5%, Kirin Holdings Co. down 3.3%, and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. down 1.3%. On the upside, some of the exporters enjoyed a bump, with NEC Corp. up 0.9%, Toshiba Corp. up 0.7%, Toyota Motor Corp. up 0.5%, and Nissan Motor Co. up 0.2% (though Honda Motor Co. , also trading ex-dividend, was down 0.6%). Shares of Sony Corp. inched up 0.1% as its entertainment group premiered "The Interview" after initially planning to shelve the release following a cyber-attack believed to be from North Korea, which opposed the film's plot about an assassination of its leader Kim Jong Un. Among other movers, Ito En Ltd. eased 0.2% lower after announcing plans to buy U.S. coffee-roasting company Distant Lands Trading for about $82 million, according to the Nikkei.

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