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LEAD: Stocks fall on profit-taking before key U.S. data.

TOKYO, April 4 Kyodo


Tokyo stocks fell Friday morning as investors sold shares to lock in quick profits following recent rises while others retreated to the sidelines ahead of the key U.S. jobs data.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average lost 90.92 points, or 0.68 percent, from Thursday to 13,298.98. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was down 5.85 points, or 0.45 percent, to 1,293.79. The Second Section also lost ground.

Brokers said investors sought to collect quick profits after Tokyo stocks had risen steadily for the past three trading sessions, with the key Nikkei index climbing over 860 points during that period.

Hiroichi Nishi, equities chief at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., said the Tokyo market's fall comes as the market cools down after recent rises and amid a dearth of fresh market incentives with Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwan markets closed.

Many investors are also cautious about trading actively ahead of the U.S. employment data for March, to be released later Friday, brokers said.

''I am seeing moves (by investors) to close their positions ahead of this very important event,'' said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Shinko Securities Co., adding the market in Tokyo will closely watch how the U.S. stocks will react.

If the jobs data turn out bad, the market's focus will likely shift from concerns about credit woes to deterioration of the real U.S. economy, said Miura.

Concerns over the credit squeeze have eased over the past few days partly after U.S. and European financial institutions announced capital-raising plans, brokers said.

The U.S. jobs data are a vital barometer to gauge the health of the U.S. economy amid concerns about a recession in the world's largest economy.

On the First Section, declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 1,084 to 498, with 133 others remaining unchanged in the morning.

Major decliners were led by iron and steel, auto, and mining issues.

Tokyo Steel Manufacturing fell 22 yen, or nearly 2 percent, to 1,434 yen on a report that the steelmaker plans to totally halt exports of steel products in mid-April due to rising scrap iron prices and a stronger yen.

Major automakers such as Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor and Honda Motor slumped after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. downgraded its investment ratings on Japan's auto industry from ''neutral'' to ''cautious,'' citing a slowdown in U.S. sales.

Toyota Motor fell 110 yen, or over 2 percent, to 5,050 yen, Nissan Motor was down 34 yen, or nearly 4 percent, to 857 yen, and Honda Motor was down 100 yen, or over 3 percent, to 2,980 yen.

Railway operator Hankyu Hanshin Holdings fell 5 yen, or over 1 percent, to 457 yen after announcing Thursday it has booked a 69 billion yen special loss and has revised sharply downward its group net profit estimate for fiscal 2007, which ended Monday.

Trading volume on the main section came to 828.16 million shares, down from Thursday morning's 953.25 million.

Gainers included trading house, consumer finance and food issues.

Marubeni rose 25 yen, or nearly 4 percent, to 747 yen, following a report about an oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico by a consortium led by major British oil company BP, which includes the Japanese trading house.

Value leader Mizuho Financial Group rose 9,000 yen, or over 2 percent, to 421,000 yen.

Volume leader Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group was up 7 yen, or nearly 1 percent, to 999 yen.

The TSE's Second Section index was down 6.74 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,749.30 on a volume of 13.49 million shares. On the Osaka Securities Exchange, the near-term June Nikkei 225 index futures contract was down 90 points to 13,330.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Apr 7, 2008
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