RTTNews - After an early surge, stock prices edged lower in the Japanese market on Thursday amid a lack of strong cues. The overnight flat close on Wall Street has rendered the market a bit subdued this morning, but the mood is fairly positive amid hopes of an economic revival following some better-than-expected earnings reports from a few big U.S. firms.

Iron & steel, mining and real estate stocks were among the prominent losers in opening trading. Technology stocks, however, moved up a bit tracking the gains posted by the Nasdaq.

The Japanese benchmark index Nikkei, which fell to 9,704 after moving on to 9,749 in early trading, is currently down by 3.3 points or 0.03% at 9,720. The Nikkei had ended at 9,723, up 71.1 points or 0.74% on Wednesday amid growing optimism about recovery prospects.

Shares of Toshiba Corp. moved up by nearly 2% this morning following an announcement from its affiliate and a major U.S. semiconductor maker, SanDisk Corp., that its profit per share for the April-June quarter returned to the black based on non-Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, defying market projections. With the news bolstering the view that the profit environment in the semiconductor industry is hitting bottom, investors thronged to the Toshiba Corp. counter in early trades today.

Isuzu Motors drifted lower and lost close to 2% in early trading this morning on reports that the company likely posted a group operating loss of 20 billion yen for the April-June quarter. The company had earlier projected an 18 billion yen loss for the entire year through March 2010. However, the stock has rebounded into positive territory on strong support at lower levels and is currently trading with a modest gain.

Shares of B-R 31 Ice Cream Co. edged up and snapped a losing streak on reports the ice cream chain's parent-only operating profit likely rose about 15% year on year to 600 million yen for the January-June period. After climbing up nearly 2% in early trading, the stock has pared some gains subsequently and is currently trading modestly higher.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. shares eased in morning trading on reports the company's group operating profit, based on U.S. accounting standards, likely fell 16% on the year to 250 billion yen for the April-June quarter. The telecommunications stock is currently trading nearly a percent down from its previous close.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Finance, Japan's merchandise trade surplus widened in June for the first time in 20 months, expanding by 388% from a year earlier to Y508 billion. The figure was a bit worse than the Y593 billion surplus expected by economists. In May the surplus was Y299.8 billion.

While exports fell by 35.7% in June for the ninth straight month, smaller than the 40.9% plunge in May, imports declined for the eighth straight monthly as it fell 41.9% in June, after falling 42.4% in May.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-93 yen range early Thursday in Tokyo, marginally down from its overnight levels in New York. The dollar changed hands at 93.55-60 yen compared with Wednesday's closing quotes of 93.64-74 yen in New York and 93.50-55 yen in Tokyo. Currently, the yen is trading at 93.72 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia, Shanghai, Korea and Taiwan are trading weak. The New Zealand and Singapore markets are trading modestly higher. Markets across the region had turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks ended weak on low volumes on Wednesday amid mixed reaction to earnings reports. In economic news, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the U.S. economy is showing signs of stabilization, although he noted that the economy is still in a fragile state, with unemployment high and consumer spending shaky.

The Dow fell 34.68 points or 0.4% to 8,881 while the Nasdaq ended up 10.18 points or 0.5% at 1,926. The S&P 500 slipped by 0.51 points or 0.1% to 954.

Major European markets closed modestly higher, with the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index finishing up by 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively. The French CAC 40 index ended almost unchanged.

Crude oil prices dropped for the first time in six sessions amid uncertain trading on the first day with September as the front-month contract. Investors mulled data released by the Energy Information Administration on weekly inventories. Light sweet crude for September delivery closed at US$65.40 per barrel, down 21 cents on the session. Prices rose to a high of US$65.77, but later fell to US$65.35.

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