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Japan stocks flat, brokers extend losses

Written by: Staff

Tokyo, Apr 14: The Nikkei average was flat on Friday, supported by expectations for healthy earnings at major firms such as Toyota Motor Corp., ahead of the reporting season that starts later this month.

Gains were offset as consumer finance stocks, although not in the Nikkei, slid on a report Japanese authorities would punish Aiful Corp. for improper lending tactics.

Consumer finance company Aiful was untraded with a glut of sell orders at 7,300 yen, down 11 percent from the previous close, following a Nihon Keizai business newspaper report that Japan's financial regulator would suspend business at all of its outlets as punishment for aggressive loan collection methods.

The report prompted selling of other consumer finance firms.

Foreign investors sidelined due to the Easter holiday weekend put a lid on any steep gains, while brokerage shares, such as Nomura Holdings Inc., extended recent falls given signs that the market's recent bull run was pausing.

''Investors' strategy is really simple --- buying earnings winners,'' said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities.

The Nikkei was up 0.03 percent or 5.53 points at 17,204.68 as of 0048 GMT, adding to a 0.21 percent rise the previous day.

The TOPIX index was down 0.06 percent at 1,742.74.

Fukunaga said Japanese companies are expected to post strong earnings as expected for the year ended in March and forecast steady profit growth in fiscal 2006/07, except for some oil and other resource-related companies given chances of a fall in oil prices from the current high levels.

Crude oil has risen amid concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions recently, hovering near the all-time .85 high hit last August.

Toyota, the world's second-biggest auto maker, was up 1.1 percent at 6,750 yen. Consumer electronics maker Casio Computer Co. Ltd., considered as another winner, was up 3.2 percent at 2,285 yen.

Shares of Advantest Corp. rose 0.7 percent to 14,320 yen after the Nihon Keizai business daily said the world's largest maker of microchip testers will probably see a rise in profit of 7 percent in fiscal 2006/07, thanks to strong sales.

Nomura, Japan's biggest brokerage, was down 1.1 percent at 2,640 yen.


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