Japanese Market Notably Lower

The Japanese stock market is notably lower in choppy trading on Friday, extending the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 falling to just a tad above the 27,300 level, despite the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight, with traders remaining cautious amid the ongoing turmoil in the banking sector. Meanwhile, Japan's annual inflation rate retreated sharply from 41-year highs.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 115.23 points or 0.42 percent to 27,304.38, after hitting a low of 27,257.44 earlier. Japanese stocks closed modestly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.3 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is losing more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are losing almost 1 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining almost 1 percent, Tokyo Electron is adding almost 2 percent and Screen Holdings is advancing more than 3 percent.

In the banking sector, Mizuho Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are losing more than 1 percent each, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down almost 1 percent.

Among major exporters, Canon, Sony, Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are all edging down 0.1 to 0.5 percent each.

Among the other major losers, Resona Holdings and Dowa Holdings are losing almost 4 percent each, while Terumo is down more than 3 percent. J. Front Retailing is declining almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Sumco is losing almost 3 percent.

In economic news, Overall consumer prices in Japan were up 3.3 percent on year in February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Friday. That was slightly lower than forecasts for 3.6 percent and down from 4.3 percent in January.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, consumer prices were down 0.6 percent versus expectations for a decline of 0.3 percent following the 0.5 percent increase in the previous month. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food costs, was up 3.1 percent on year - matching forecasts and down from 4.2 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 130 yen-range on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved sharply higher in early trading on Thursday but gave back ground over the course of the trading session. The major averages pulled back well off their best levels but recovered going into the close to end the day in positive territory.

The major averages all closed higher on the day, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq posting a standout gain. While the Nasdaq jumped 117.44 points or 1.0 percent to 11,787.40, the S&P 500 rose 11.75 points or 0.3 percent to 3,948.72 and the Dow edged up 76.14 points or 0.2 percent to 32,105.25.

The major European markets finished the day mixed. While the French CAC 40 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index closed just below the unchanged line and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.9 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower Thursday on concerns the interest rate hikes by several central banks could slow down economic growth and impact the outlook for energy demand. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for May ended lower by $0.94 or 1.3 percent at $69.96 a barrel.

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