Tokyo stocks open 0.44% lower

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo stocks opened down 0.44 per cent Friday as the yen's strength against major currencies created selling pressure in early trade.

The Nikkei 225 index was down 61.80 points at 14,101.98 after the opening bell.

The early decline came as the dollar was at 101.57 yen Friday morning, compared with 101.66 yen in New York Thursday afternoon.

A strong yen is negative for Japanese exporters, making them less competitive overseas and eroding repatriated profits.

The euro weakened after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said the bank was prepared to further ease monetary conditions next month if the economy needed it.

The euro fetched US$1.3836 and 140.54 yen against US$1.3840 and 140.69 yen in US trade.

As expected, the ECB decided Thursday to hold off on any action for the moment, despite facing a very low rate of inflation and what many say is an overvalued euro.

But in a surprise departure from the bank's previous policy of never pre-committing on interest rate moves, Draghi said monetary policy makers were now sufficiently concerned to take more action.

In early Tokyo trade, Toyota fell 0.59 percent to 5,495 yen after Toyota booked a record $17.9 billion annual net profit but warned that earnings growth would stall this year.