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Japanese Market Extends Losing Streak

The Japanese stock market is losing for the third straight day on Friday after U.S. stocks closed lower overnight as a report that showed initial jobless claims rose more than expected stoked concerns about the fragile economic recovery. Worries about inflation also weighed on the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 255.53 points or 0.85 percent to 29,980.56, after touching a low of 29,970.59 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding 0.4 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing more than 2 percent and Toyota is lower by almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 2 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down 0.3 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are declining more than 1 percent each, while Canon and Sony are down 0.2 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, Nissan Chemical is gaining almost 4 percent, while Hitachi Zosen and Taiheiyo Cement are rising more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Sharp Corp. is losing more than 5 percent, Inpex is lower by more than 4 percent and Takara Holdings is declining almost 4 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 105 yen-range on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks climbed well off their worst levels, but still closed lower on Thursday. A negative reaction to earnings news from retail giant Walmart and the release of a Labor Department report showing initial jobless claims came in well above economist estimates in the week ended February 13 contributed to the weakness in the markets.

The Dow fell 119.68 points or 0.4 percent to 31,493.34, the Nasdaq slid 100.14 points or 0.7 percent to 13,865.36 and the S&P 500 dropped 17.36 points or 0.4 percent to 3,913.97.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.7 percent and the German DAX Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures settled lower on Thursday amid prospects of OPEC increasing crude production. WTI crude for March delivery slid $0.62 or about 1 percent to $60.52 a barrel after ending the previous session at its highest closing level in over a year.

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