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Nikkei down as chip stocks fall; energy firms rise

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, Apr 11 (Reuters) The Nikkei average fell 0.12 percent on Tuesday as shares in Advantest Corp. and other chip-related firms fell after a brokerage downgrade, weighing on the tech-sensitive benchmark.

Energy firms such as AOC Holdings Inc. and INPEX Holdings Inc.

rose after U.S. crude futures hit their highest in nearly three months, boosting expectations that oil firms will continue to benefit from higher crude prices.

Just before afternoon trade began, the Bank of Japan said it would continue with its policy of keeping a key short-term interest rate around zero percent, as widely expected.

Shares in chip-related firms were sold after brokerage Mizuho Securities downgraded its rating on several stocks in the sector, said Hideyuki Suzuki, investment information manager at SBI Securities.

''Already there were concerns about the overall market being overheated, and since these (chip) firms are big contributors to the Nikkei 225, they looked already ripe for profit-taking. Then that report came along, and sparked the selling,'' he said.

The Nikkei was down 21.59 points at 17,434.99.

On Friday it booked it highest close since July 2000.

The TOPIX index was down 0.33 percent at 1,771.53.

Advantest, the world's biggest maker of chip-testing devices, was down 2.4 percent at 14,640 yen, after Mizuho cut its rating, citing expectations of lower growth in the sector.

Shares in NEC Electronics Corp. fell 5.7 percent to 4,490 yen, after Mizuho lowered its rating and said the stock appeared overpriced at current levels.

Petroleum refiner AOC Holdings rose 1.1 percent to 2,360 yen, while developer INPEX Holdings rose 1.6 percent to 1.25 million yen.

US crude futures rose to a barrel on Tuesday, the highest since late January, due to growing tension over Iran's nuclear programme and continuing supply disruptions in Nigeria.

REUTERS SB RK1115

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