Japan Stocks Rise, But Sony, Softbank Losses Limit Gains

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Japanese stocks opened to solid gains Thursday amid a favorable currency environment but moved a little off their early highs as the yen strengthened slightly on the back of better-than-expected trade data. The Nikkei Stock Average was up 0.3%, off its 0.7% gain at the open but still strong enough to erase Wednesday's 0.3% loss. The Topix also rose 0.3%. The yen hit fresh post-financial-crisis lows ahead of the open, though the unit rebounded modestly after data showed a 9.6% year-on-year increase for Japan's October exports, beating a Wall Street Journal survey forecast for a 4.4% rise. Early in the session, the dollar was buying �118.06, up from �117.58 at the Wednesday Tokyo stock close. The forex move sent currency-sensitive shares rising, as Casio Computer Co. gained 2.2%, Fujitsu Ltd. rose 3.5%, Mazda Motor Corp. gained 2.5%, and Honda Motor Co. rose 2.3%. But losses for some of the most-heavily weighted names limited gains, as Fast Retailing Co. edged down 0.1%, Softbank Corp. fell 2.1% (possibly weighed by a 1.8% loss for Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. , in which it is a major shareholder), and Sony Corp. gave up 1.3% (possibly amid some profit-taking, as the shares are still up 16.3% so far this month). Back in the retail sector, J. Front Retailing Co. lost 0.8%, Takashimaya Co. fell 0.4%, and Isetan Mitsukoshi shed 0.3% after separate data showing a 2.2% drop in Japanese department stores' October same-store sales, compared to a year earlier.

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