Japanese Market Losing Ground

The Japanese stock market is losing ground on Thursday in a choppy session despite a weaker yen, following the modest losses overnight on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve’s minutes of its monetary policy meeting showed broad consensus for further rate hikes.

Investors also digested data that showed Japan recorded a merchandise trade surplus in September, even as its exports fell for the first time since 2016.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 78.33 points or 0.34 percnt to 22,762.79, after touching a low of 22,747.67 earlier. Japanese shares rallied on Wednesday, extending gains for a second straight session.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent, Sony is declining 0.6 percent and Panasonic is down 0.2 percent, while Canon is advancing almost 1 percent. SoftBank is declining more than 1 percent.

Among auto makers, Honda is lower by 0.2 percent, while Toyota is adding 0.5 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is advancing almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.3 percent.

In the oil space, Japan Petroleum is down more than 1 percent and Inpex is losing almost 2 percent after crude oil prices fell 3 percent overnight.

In the tech sector, Advantest is rising 0.3 percent, while Tokyo Electron is losing almost 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, FamilyMart UNY is rising 3 percent, while Credit Saison, Sony Financial, Mitsui Fudosan and Fujifilm are higher by more than 2 percent each.

Fujifilm secured a major win in its merger fight with Xerox after a U.S. court overturned an earlier injunction blocking the deal. The court decision means Fujifilm can now move ahead with its planned merger deal with Xerox.

On the flip side, Yaskawa Electric is losing more than 5 percent, Okuma Corp is lower by almost 5 percent and Fanuc Corp. is down almost 4 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 139.6 billion yen in September. That exceeded expectations for a deficit of 45.1 billion yen following the 444.6 billion yen shortfall in August.

Exports were down 1.2 percent on year, shy of forecasts for an increase of 2.3 percent following the 6.6 percent gain in the previous month. Imports advanced an annual 7.0 percent versus forecasts for a jump of 13.7 percent after climbing 15.4 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 112 yen-range on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed slightly lower on Wednesday in a volatile session after the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s September monetary policy meeting showed the central bank continues to favor a “gradual approach” to raising interest rates. The Fed’s assessment comes even as President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the central bank for hiking rates too quickly.

While the Dow fell 91.74 points or 0.4 percent to 25,706.68, the Nasdaq slipped 2.79 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 7,642.70 and the S&P 500 edged down 0.71 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,809.21.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Wednesday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both fell by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil prices tumbled following the release of a report from EIA showing an unexpected weekly jump in U.S. crude oil inventories. WTI crude for November delivery plunged $2.17 or 3 percent to $69.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.