HONG KONG, Apr 17 (Reuters) Tokyo shares edged lower on Monday, weighed down by banks and technology firms such as Toshiba Corp., while investors looked ahead to key U.S. earnings reports and the outlook for inflation.
But South Korean exporters rose on optimism about second-half earnings, and a rise in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. shares helped to lift the index to a record.
By 0057 GMT, Japan's benchmark Nikkei was down 0.6 percent.
The country's corporate earnings reporting season starts later in the week, and Komatsu Ltd. rose 0.64 percent on expectations of high earnings.
Cosmo Oil Co. Ltd., Japan's fourth-largest refiner, fell 1.9 percent after it said on Sunday it had closed a desulpherisation unit near Tokyo after a fire broke out at the plant.
''The earnings season will soon start for key U.S. technology companies. But I don't think it would give a boost to Japanese counterparts given PER (price-to-earnings ratios) far more attractive in U.S.,'' said Kentar o Nakajo, a chief manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities' equities.
''It's time to pick up individual stocks with good valuations relative to earnings prospects.'' South Korea's benchmark KOSPI, which opened at a record high, fluctuated between gains and losses. Analysts said investors were confident that earnings at beleaguered exporters would improve from a pickup in demand and a more stable won currency Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the world's largest memory chip maker, rose 0.31 percent as investors cheered its plan to buy back stocks, and fellow memory chip maker Hynix Semiconductor Inc. rose 0.2 percent.
Big U.S. tech players such Intel Corp., Apple Computer Inc.
and Yahoo! Inc. will report quarterly results this week.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index were closed for the Good Friday holiday.
REUTERS PDS PM0640