Japan Stocks Edge Higher As Yen Softens

Japanese stocks inched their way to fresh gains early Friday, as the boost from a weaker yen outweighed any drag from mixed economic data released just ahead of the open. In initial trades, the Nikkei Average was up 0.1%, putting a little icing on the 1.1% gain Thursday, while the Topix improved by 0.3%. With the dollar rising to �119.24 from �118.75 at the previous Tokyo stock close, some of the forex-sensitive names made a move higher, with Panasonic Corp. up 1.2%, Sharp Corp. up 0.8%, and Nintendo Co. up 2.4%. Among the financials, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. added 0.9% to its price, as its banking unit began offering reverse mortgages in Japan's largest cities, while Mizuho Financial Group Inc. rose 0.3% after confirmation of its purchase -- tipped in media reports the previous day -- of Royal Bank of Scotland's North American loan portfolio. Meanwhile, a mob of data unleashed earlier in the morning showed better industrial output than expected, but also indicated that core consumer inflation was slowing, and retail sales were down 2% from a year earlier. Following the retail data, which also showed the largest companies' sales flat on year, the top retail shares were mixed, with Aeon Co. down 1.2% and Lawson Inc. off 0.3%, but Fast Retailing Co. up 0.5% and Takashimaya Co. up 0.7%. Shares of bankrupt Skymark Airlines Inc. took another dive, plummeting 19% as ANA Holdings Inc.'s president told the Nikkei that his airline didn't want to take a majority stake in Skymark, even if it's selected to sponsor its ailing rival's rehabilitation. Shares of ANA were down just 0.1%. And shares of motorcycle maker Yamaha Motor Co. rallied 3.4% after its president said in a separate Nikkei interview that the company plans to make and sell small cars in Europe, beginning "around 2019."

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