RTTNews - The stock market in Japan ended lower on Thursday, dragged down by retailers on speculation that consumers may refrain from shopping after local government officials confirmed that two students contracted Swine flu in the Tokyo region. Export-related stocks also declined following the strengthening of the local currency against the U.S. green back. Weaker closing on Wall Street on fresh concerns about recovery hopes also dented the market sentiment.

The Nikkei Index opened lower at 9,280 compared to its previous close at 9,345 and drifted down further to a low of 9,190 in early trading. After remaining in a narrow range for much of the session, the indices managed to recover some of the losses, led by resource stocks, before closing at 9,264, down 0.9% or 80.49 points. The broader Topix Index of all first section issues shed 0.6% or 4.86 points, to close at 881.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported that an index measuring the tertiary industrial activity fell to a seasonally adjusted 4.0% to 100.8 month-on-month during March. Analysts expected the index to fall 1.5% compared to a revised drop of 1.3% in February. The Health Ministry confirmed yesterday that as many as 234 cases of swine flu have been registered in the country in the past few days.

Supermarket operator Aeon declined 3.17% following reports of swine flu in the Tokyo Area. Seven & I Holdings slipped 2.28% and McDonalds Holdings shed 2.68% following confirmation that two part time employees of the company were confirmed to be infected by swine flu.

Exporters declined after the local currency strengthened against the dollar. Canon declined 2.42%, Fanuc slipped 2.85%, Sony Corp edged down 0.20% and Toshiba Corp lost 3.66%.

Tokyo Marine, which reported a 79% drop in net income for the year ended 31 March 2009 due to losses on security holdings, slipped 2.83% despite forecasting a sharp increase in profits for the current year.

Among the banking stocks, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, declined 1.66%, Mizuho Financial shed 0.87%, and Resona Holdings edged down 0.28%. Sumitomo Mitsui however ended higher by 0.79%.

Shares of farm equipment maker Kuboto advanced 2.88% after Nomura Securities raised the share price target of the company following the release of earnings report for fiscal 2008.

The third largest producer of copper in the country Mitsubishi Materials gained 2.77% following reports that the company is planning to increase its output. Copper prices rose 2.4% on London Metals Exchange on Wednesday.

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