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Nikkei weaker, Asian stocks mixed

BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui is opposed to buying bank shares
BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui is opposed to buying bank shares

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TOKYO, Japan -- Japanese stocks were struggling for direction by midday Friday after mixed signals from the U.S. markets and a looming public holiday on Monday sent investors to the sidelines.

Banks were feeling pressure after the Bank of Japan dashed hopes of a share-buying boost and exporters were being hurt by poor economic data from the United States.

The key Nikkei index was trading at 7857.37 -- off 0.08 percent -- shortly after noon while the broader Topix marker was marginally in the black at 800.93.

"Banks are being hit since it looks like the BOJ won't expand its stock-buying scheme to include purchasing of bank shares," Koichi Kawata, deputy head of equities at SMBC Friend Securities, told Reuters.

Sumitomo Mitsui fell 3.57 percent to 189,000 yen after the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui said in an interview he was opposed to a proposal by the ruling coalition for the BOJ to buy bank shares. (Full story)

Shares of SMFG had rallied 20 percent in the past two sessions on expectations the government would soon enact steps to boost the stock market.

Local media have said the government would request that the BOJ purchase shares in private-sector banks, making them a prime target for profit-taking.

Mizuho Financial Group rose 0.44 percent to 69,000 yen, recovering from a drop earlier in the morning and bringing the stock's climb to 17.5 percent since an all-time low was hit on Monday.

Electronics giant Hitachi Ltd jumped 3.6 percent to 432 yen. It is up 14 percent since marking a two-decade low on Monday as investors reevaluated tech stocks beaten down after a shock earnings outlook from Sony late last week.

Sony Corp slipped 2.09 percent to 2,805 yen after a survey from the Institute for Supply Management showed U.S. manufacturing contracted again in April to 45.4 from 46.2 in March. Most economists were expecting a rise, Reuters reports.

Carmakers Honda Motor and Mitsubishi Motor both suffered, the former off 1.02 percent to 3900 yen, the latter shedding 3.88 percent to 248 yen.

Meanwhile, a series of disappointing economic reports left stocks mixed on Wall Street overnight.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 25.84, or 0.3 percent, at 8,454.25 while the Nasdaq composite index rose 8.25, or 0.6 percent, to 1,472.56. (Full story)

Mixed performance

Elsewhere, markets in Asia were mixed with many investors returning from the Labor holiday in a lethargic mood.

South Korea's Kospi was down 1.74 percent to 588.95 while Australia's ASX/S&P200 shed 0.88 percent to 2977.3 as the afternoon sessions got into full swing.

Of Australian stocks of note, media player News Corp was down 1.07 percent to A$11.07 and resources major BHP Billiton continued a downward run, losing 2.22 percent to A$8.80.

Flagship airline Qantas Airway was unable to sustain recent gains, and was 0.31 percent lower at A$3.19.

New Zealand's NZSE Top50 was 1.78 percent weaker at 1942.28 as trading there drew to a close.

Shares in Taiwan managed to rebound from a weaker opening to be trading marginally firmer -- 0.06 percent -- at 4150.56 while in Singapore the Straits Times index was 1.17 percent stronger at 1296.28.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng indicator gained 0.81 percent to 8787.75 shortly after midday.

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