Tokyo stocks snapped a three-day winning streak Thursday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index falling 1.79 percent, as investors opted to lock in profits and await more cues about the health of the U.S. economy.
Traders here said that the market was going through a correction after a recent run of closing highs and investors were content Thursday to lock in recent profits made ahead of more economic data due out from the U.S.
Specifically, they were referring to key retail sales data due out for January, widely seen as a barometer for consumer consumption in the world's largest economy and a reflection of the public's sentiment towards the economy's fiscal health.
In addition, they pointed to market players keenly awaiting the weekly jobless data due out later in the day, before assuming new positions ahead of February's employment figures due out next month.
Hiromichi Tamura, chief strategist for Nomura Securities, noted that trading would be range bound for the time being, with market players needing more confidence in the health of the U.S. economy before chasing issues higher.
He added that he didn't expect markets to fall more here due to fairly robust earnings from Japan Inc., which continue to underpin individual issues here, on a merit basis.
That said, other analysts pointed to selling being more pervasive in the afternoon session as the yen rose against other major currencies, a bane for exporters who rely on a weaker yen to boost overseas profits and competitiveness.
Takahiro Nakano, a senior strategist at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. said the market is currently correcting, but said that based on recent earnings, he didn't expect that shares would rise much higher henceforth.
Other local traders concurred Thursday that a lot hinged on Wall Street's recent rally and its halt and its future direction would test whether investors here opt to test further upsides of shares or take more circumspect, defensive positions.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average lost 265.32 points from Wednesday to close at 14,534.74, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 19.86 points, or 1.63 percent, to end the day at 1,199.74.
Real estate issues here lost ground, on lackluster earnings and profit forecasts, with Tokyo Tatemono sinking 8.3 percent to 869 yen, after the company projected full-year operating profit of 27 billion yen, far lower than median analysts' expectations for the firm.
Nomura Real Estate Office Fund Inc. retreated 2.8 percent to 417,000 yen, following reports that MSCI Inc. will remove the firm 's stock from its global gauge.
Sumitomo Realty & Development Co., another real estate firm also failed to gain traction Thursday, slumping 2.4 percent to 4, 415 yen, despite announcing its nine-month profit had jumped 25 percent on robust sales of homes and maintaining its full-year net- income forecast at 68 billion yen.
Mobile carrier SoftBank lost 3.5 percent to close at 7,506 yen, as investors opted to dump the stock and cash in on gains, following unsurprising quarterly profit reports.
Export-related issues also declined on unfavorable exchange rates, with Sony falling 2 percent to 1,729 yen and rival Panasonic relinquishing 3.2 percent to close at 1,181 yen.
But cosmetics maker Fancl bucked the downward trend Thursday, jumping 5.6 percent to 1,178 yen, on a robust group net profit outlook for the current fiscal year, despite previous reports of losses. The firm said it expects sales to grow ahead of the nation ' s consumption tax hike by 3 percent to 8 percent in April.
Trading volume on Thursday edged down to 2.30 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, from Wednesday's volume of 2. 34 billion shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 1,497 to 233.