Tokyo stocks close up 0.25%

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo stocks rose 0.25 per cent Friday as bargain-hunting offset early selling triggered by a strong yen.

The Nikkei 225 index gained 35.81 points to 14,199.59, while the Topix index of all first-section shares climbed 0.47 per cent, or 5.50 points, to 1,165.51.

Tokyo stocks had opened lower as the yen gained ground against the dollar in early trading.

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

"But investors bought on dips, which sent the Nikkei index back into positive territory by noon," said Kenzaburo Suwa, strategist at Okasan Securities.

"A rise in Toyota shares also made investors feel relieved in general," Suwa said.

Toyota was up 0.59 per cent to 5,561 yen after the automaker booked a record US$17.9 billion annual net profit, but warned that earnings growth would stall this year.

The dollar, which dropped to 101.54 yen early Friday, recovered to 101.70 yen in afternoon trading, compared with 101.66 yen in New York Thursday afternoon.

The euro edged down 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$1.3833 and 140.68 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.

US stocks finished mixed Thursday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 0.20 per cent to 16,570.97, while the broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.14 per cent to 1,875.63.

In Tokyo trade, Sony fell 0.11 per cent to 1,764 yen after the firm said it was to shutter its ebook Reader Store in Europe and Australia following a similar pullout in North America.

Panasonic rose 0.47 per cent to 1,061 yen, while Sharp fell 0.38 per cent to 259 yen. Panasonic released rosy earnings figures last month, while Sharp is expected to give positive news when it reveals its full year figures next week.

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