Tokyo stocks retreated in thin trade Tuesday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index losing 0.46 percent as a lack of fresh trading cues and a circumspect mood ahead of economic data due out later in the day from the U.S. stifled buying sentiment.
Local brokers said that with no catalysts for buying, coupled with foreign investors who comprise some 60 percent of the market' s participants away for year-end holidays, the bourse's traffic moved in a narrow range compounded by overseas markets being closed for the Christmas period.
"There's no outstanding catalyst to buy stocks. Trading energy plunged in the Tokyo market yesterday. Today as well, we can't expect foreign investors to buy shares as the overseas markets are closed," said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co.
Analysts here also added that U.S. housing and consumer confidence data due out later in the day sent investors to the sidelines to wait and see if the data spurred the Dow index's current four-day winning and the Nasdaq's two-day run of straight gains ahead of the holidays.
"The market is watching whether the indicators will help New York stocks continue their recent advances," said Kazuhiro Takahashi, general manager at Daiwa Securities Co.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped 38.78 points from Monday to finish the day at 8,440.56, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 2.19 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 724.25.
Air and sea-transport-related issues were among the day's notable decliners, with All Nippon Airways slumping 1.8 percent to a year-to-date low of 215 yen, following increased competition from budget carriers and reports that the government plans to expand bullet train lines and destinations.
Scandal-hit Olympus Corp. lost 2.1 percent to 1,005 yen, following the firm having to further amend financial reports after errors were detected following the documents originally being submitted a fortnight ago.
Department store operator Takashimaya Co. also closed in negative territory Tuesday, falling 3.6 percent to 560 yen, following the firm slashing its revenue forecasts due to increasing corporate tax charges.
But building-related stocks bucked the downward trend on hopes for increased contracts following reports of government plans to extend bullet train lines and Obayashi climbed 1.8 percent to 338 yen, buoyed also by Daiwa Securities lifting its rating on the firm's stock to "outperform" from "neutral."
Kajima Corp. also gained today, rising 2.2 percent to 233 yen, while rival Taisei Corp. added 2.1 percent to 194 yen. Shimizu Corp., for its part, rose 1.3 percent to close at 317 yen, with the overall sector supported by Daiwa maintaing its "bullish" rating on the industry.
Exporters ended mixed with consumer electronics maker Panasonic slipping 0.6 percent to a year-to-date low of 641 yen, while game console and software maker Nintendo gained 1.2 percent to 10,730 yen on robust sales of its 3DS portable game console over the Christmas period.
Trading volume on Tuesday fell to its lowest this year at 807. 17 million shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Monday's volume of 904.20 million, with advancing issues outnumbering declining ones by 886 to 558.