The benchmark Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange eased 62.40 points to 17,330.39, while the Topix index of all first-section shares was nearly flat, edging down 0.55 points to 1,388.96.
Japanese stocks are likely to trade in a tight range Friday, as investors look ahead to the release Monday of economic growth data for the July-September quarter.
They are also keeping on alert following reports that the government is considering a delay to next year’s planned sales tax hike as well as a snap election next month.
Tokyo has said the growth figures will be key to its decision on whether or not to usher in a second sales tax hike in October.
Hopes for a delay have buoyed Tokyo stocks after a levy hike in April — the country’s first in 17 years — threw Japan’s economic recovery into reverse and threatens to plunge the country back into recession.
“The real key will be Monday’s third-quarter GDP data, which will essentially make or break the case for putting off the tax hike,” said Takashi Matsumoto, a director at Okasan Securities.
“If the data come in as expected, however, and long-term foreign investors become interested in Japan equities again, a Nikkei year-end finish above 18,000 becomes possible, if not likely,” he added.
Market heavyweight Fast Retailing, operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, fell 0.68 percent to 43,980.0 yen, Toyota slipped 0.21 percent to 6,915.0 yen and Honda rose 1.28 percent to 3,672.5 yen.
In forex markets, the dollar, which hit 116.20 yen in early trade — its highest since late 2007 — before dipping back to 115.86 yen, still slightly up from 115.75 yen in New York late Thursday.
On Wall Street the Dow hit another record high thanks to Berkshire Hathaway’s $4.7 billion takeover of battery giant Duracell and strong results from Walmart.
The Dow added 0.23 percent, while the S&P 500 fell shy of a new high mark, adding 0.05 percent. The Nasdaq gained 0.11 percent. -AFP