The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange was down 21.22 points at 17,774.51 by the break, while the Topix index of all first-section shares fell 0.41 percent, or 5.86 points, to 1,424.06.
Among the decliners was Skymark Airlines whose shares lost a quarter of their value after the struggling carrier filed for bankruptcy protection, citing potentially crippling penalties over a cancelled $2.2 billion jet order with Airbus.
The embattled airline’s shares dropped 25 percent to 237 yen ($2) — their daily loss limit — at the open, but trading sputtered as sell orders vastly outnumbered buy bids.
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, NEC, and Toshiba are among the companies set to report their financial results later in the day.
Tokyo’s fall into negative territory came after Wall Street finished a volatile session sharply lower as worries about the strong dollar and falling oil prices outweighed some positive earnings reports.
Oil prices falling below $45 a barrel, close to their lowest level in six years, renewed concern about slowing inflation and declining global demand. That spooked investors who are already nervous about the impact of political uncertainty in Greece on the 19-member eurozone.
As a result, all three benchmark US indices fell. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 1.13 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 slumped 1.35 percent, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.93 percent.
The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, failed to buoy markets when it repeated its pledge to remain “patient” regarding the first US interest rate hike since 2006. Markets have been looking for confirmation that the central bank would raise rates by mid-year.
“Investors are negative on the Fed comments because they were hoping for more clarity on when they will raise rates, as proof that they see the US recovery as a genuine one,” Andrew Clarke, director of trading at Mirabaud Securities Asia, told Bloomberg News.
Official Japanese data showed the country’s retail sales slipped 0.3 percent in December, the third consecutive monthly decline and a further blow to Tokyo’s efforts to reignite the economy.
In Tokyo share trading, Nintendo dropped 7.72 percent to 11,350.0 yen after the firm’s earnings results, published after markets closed Wednesday, failed to impress investors.
The videogame giant said its April-December net profit soared six-fold to $504 million as a sharply weaker yen boosted its bottom line, but the Super Mario creator trimmed its full-year sales and operating profit forecasts.
Canon shares fell 4.58 percent to 3,762.0 yen after its net income for the nine months through December, posted Wednesday, fell short of market expectations.
In forex trade, the dollar rose to 117.95 yen, against 117.53 yen in New York. (AFP)