Japanese stocks sat slightly negative in early Friday trade, seemingly marking time ahead of a monetary-policy decision due out later in the day. After opening flat, the Nikkei Average was 0.1% weaker about half an hour into the session, while the Topix eased 0.2% lower, and the U.S. dollar bought �121.04, down from �121.23 a day earlier. The Bank of Japan was widely expected to keep its monetary easing program unchanged in a decision likely to come down midday, though some economists said the central bank might also upgrade its assessment of the economy. Ahead of the announcement, investors took a little profit on some of the bank stocks, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. down 0.6% and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. down 0.4%, after recent post-earnings gains for the pair, while Credit Saison Co. lost 1.3%, and Orix Corp. retreated 0.6%. Meanwhile, shares of Sony Corp. pulled 2% lower, with several tech blogs citing an allegedly leaked company document indicating the company planned to cut the price on its PS Vita and PlayStation4 videogame devices, though those reports could not be immediately confirmed. Other blue-chip decliners included Canon Inc. (down 1.9%), Nintendo Co. (down 1.5%), and Honda Motor Co. (down 1.1%), though Takata Corp. managed to rebound by 2.3%, even as it faces hefty costs related to another major recall of cars containing its airbags. On the upside, a rally in oil futures helped propel energy shares higher (Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. up 1.4%, Inpex Corp. up 2.4%), while trading house Itochu Corp. rose 2.8% -- putting it up 7.7% for the week -- with a Nikkei news report attributing the recent gains to its outlook for strong dividends, as well as relief over its investment in China's Citic Group after the latter posted robust earnings. Meanwhile, news that Softbank Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son was resigning as chairman of the board at Yahoo Japan Corp. -- in which Softbank holds a large stake -- helped send shares of Softbank up 1.2%, while Yahoo Japan lost 1.2%.
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