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Japanese Market Declines On Profit-taking

The Japanese stock market opened lower on profit-taking Friday, following the recent strong gains that propelled the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index to 15-year highs. Exporters are mixed on the back of a slightly stronger yen.

In late-morning trades Thursday, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 97.61 points or 0.48 percent to 20,090.04, off a low of 20,065.05 earlier.

Among the major exporters, Sony Corp. (SNE) is advancing 1.7 percent, extending gains on its earnings forecast, while Nikon Corp is adding 0.6 percent. Panasonic and Sharp are declining 1 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 1 percent, Fanuc is down 0.5 percent, Casio Computer is lower by 0.6 percent and Hitachi is edging down 0.2 percent.

Softbank is edging up 0.2 percent, while market heavyweight Fast Retailing, the operator of Uniqlo clothing stores, is down almost 1 percent.

In the auto sector, Honda (HMC) is advancing more than 1 percent after the company unveiled its first business jet, the HondaJet, on Thursday. Meanwhile, Toyota (TMC) is declining 0.6 percent and Nissan is lower by 0.4 percent.

Among banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU) is up 0.6 percent, while Mizuho Financial (MFG) is adding 0.46 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is gaining 0.7 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Nomura Holdings is gaining 1.8 percent, Pacific Metals is adding more than 1 percent and Sojitz is edging up 0.4 percent. Meanwhile, Toyota Tsusho is declining almost 3 percent, Kao Corp. is losing 2.7 percent and Nitto Boseki is down 2.5 percent.

On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that an index measuring producer prices in Japan were up 3.2 percent on year in March, standing at 103.0. That was just shy of forecasts for 3.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the February reading.

For the first quarter of 2015, producer prices were up 3.3 percent on year, slowing from 3.5 percent in the previous three months. They were also down 0.1 percent on quarter after adding 0.2 percent in the three months prior.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 119 yen-range on Friday, down from the upper 119 yen range at close on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks once again shrugged off some early volatility to close higher on Thursday, partly reflecting a positive reaction to the latest batch of earnings news from big-name companies. With the upward move, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the session at a new record closing high.

While the Nasdaq rose 20.89 points or 0.4 percent to 5,056.06, the Dow inched up 20.42 points or 0.1 percent to 18,058.69 and the S&P 500 edged up 4.97 points or 0.2 percent to 2,112.93.

The major European markets closed mixed on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 0.6 percent and the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.2 percent.

U.S. crude oil surged to end sharply higher on Thursday, after the dollar weakened against a basket of few select currencies on some soft economic data from the U.S. Crude prices were also impacted after renewed violence was reported in Yemen, where a proxy fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia threatens to destabilize the region.

Crude oil futures for June delivery, the most actively traded contract, soared $1.58 or 2.8 percent to settle at $57.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday.

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