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Nikkei ends lower on sluggish earnings from leading companies

This file photo shows the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Nikkei stock index ended lower on Wednesday as sluggish earnings from major companies hurt investor sentiment, with heavyweight SoftBank Group sinking more than 5 percent.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended down 79.01 points, or 0.29 percent, from Tuesday at 27,606.46. The broader Topix index finished 0.57 point, or 0.03 percent, higher at 1,983.97.

    Decliners included iron and steel, and retailer shares, while gainers were led by pharmaceuticals, and oil and coal products issues.

    The U.S. dollar mostly remained in the upper 130 yen level in Tokyo after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said at an event overnight that U.S. interest rates need to rise further to tame inflation.

    Some traders saw his comments as less hawkish than anticipated, although stronger-than-expected employment data was released last week. The remarks added to investors' hopes that the central bank will slow the pace of its rate hikes, dealers said.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 130.88-90 yen compared with 131.04-14 yen in New York and 132.15-17 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.0758-0759 and 140.80-84 yen against $1.0724-0734 and 140.57-67 yen in New York, and $1.0724-0725 and 141.72-76 yen in Tokyo late Tuesday afternoon.

    The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond ended the day at 0.490 percent, unchanged from Tuesday's close.

    On the stock market, Nikkei heavyweights, including SoftBank Group and Nintendo, met selling on weaker-than-expected earnings for the nine months through December, released Tuesday.

    "The two big companies dragged the Nikkei down as a whole, worsening market sentiment," said Koichi Fujishiro, a senior economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

    SoftBank Group ended down 320 yen, or 5.1 percent, at 5,948 yen after the technology and investment giant reported a net loss for the April-December period.

    Nintendo was down 423 yen, or 7.5 percent, at 5,201 yen after the gaming company lowered its net profit forecast for the current business year through March.

    The Nikkei was also affected by the firmness of the yen which put a damper on exporter issues.

    But stocks also found some support, with the Nikkei narrowing its decline and the Topix turning positive toward the end of trading hours.

    Semiconductor-related issues gained ground as investors took heart from an overnight rise in the tech-heavy Nasdaq index in New York, brokers said.

    Chip-manufacturing equipment maker Tokyo Electron advanced 560 yen, or 1.2 percent, to 47,270 yen. Advantest, a maker of chip-testing devices, rose 280 yen, or 2.8 percent, to 10,140 yen.

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