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Tokyo stocks recover after US softens tariff plan

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo stocks bounced back Thursday as concerns over the planned U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports eased somewhat after Washington said some countries may be exempted from the import curbs.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 115.35 points, or 0.54 percent, from Wednesday at 21,368.07. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished 5.99 points, or 0.35 percent, higher at 1,709.95.

    Gainers were led by pulp and paper, pharmaceutical and electric appliance issues.

    The Nikkei briefly rose more than 200 points as worries about protectionist U.S. trade policies following the resignation of President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn softened after the White House's announcement on possible tariff exemptions.

    The market also gained support from the upward revision of Japan's October-December gross domestic product released before the market's opening, brokers said.

    Trump's plan will exempt Canada and Mexico and possibly other countries from stiff tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum when they are formalized at a signing ceremony on Thursday, the White House said.

    "Investors bought shares as (the U.S. trade policy) may not be as protectionist as they thought at first," said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

    Once initial buying ran its course, gains were gradually pared as market players were waiting for results from central bank policy meetings in Europe and Japan as well as February jobs data from the United States.

    "A wait-and-see mood turned strong ahead of the key events," said Mitsuo Shimizu, equity strategist at Japan Asia Securities Co.

    He also attributed top-heavy trading in the afternoon to some investors' cashing in following gains earlier in the day.

    On the First Section, declining issues outnumbered advancers 1,042 to 938 with 90 ending the day unchanged.

    Steelmakers rose on expectations of U.S. tariff exemptions. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal gained 12.50 yen, or 0.5 percent, to 2,359.50 yen and Kobe Steel advanced 31 yen, or 3.0 percent, to 1,059 yen.

    Pharmaceutical makers were also among major gainers. Shionogi climbed 112 yen, or 2.1 percent, to 5,545 yen, after a health ministry panel approved the company's one-step drug to contain influenza viruses be covered by health insurance from next Wednesday.

    Eisai surged 549 yen, or 9.8 percent, to 6,126 yen after the drug maker revised upward its earnings estimates for the year through March and its announcement about a tie-up with U.S. Merck & Co. to develop and sell a cancer drug.

    GMO Internet sank 91 yen, or 4.5 percent, to 1,953 yen, after Japanese regulators issued a business improvement order to seven cryptocurrency exchanges, including the company's subsidiary.

    Trading volume on the main section fell to 1,225.76 million shares from Wednesday's 1,467.44 million shares.


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