Tokyo investors eye Fed chief speech next week
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on monetary policy and the state of the economy on July 16, 2014 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC - by Mandel Ngan
"As geopolitical concerns seem subdued for the time being, the market is shifting its focus to Yellen," said Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities, referring to a US conference where Yellen is to deliver a keynote address.
"We don't expect any surprises, but it's still hard for us to take positions ahead of the event."
Last month Yellen told Congress the Fed would hold its near-zero interest rate policy until the US economy strengthens but may raise rates if the jobs market kept improving.
Concerns over the situation in Ukraine were easing as Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to the crisis in the violence-wracked country.
In Iraq, the country's divisive premier Nuri al-Maliki dropped his bid to stay in power, bowing to huge domestic and international pressure as a jihadist-led offensive threatens to tear the country apart.
"The Nikkei is still on course for a gradual recovery from its recent sharp decline," Horiuchi said.
On Friday, the Nikkei 225 index was flat, adding 0.02 percent, or 3.77 points, to finish at 15,318.34 on Friday. The benchmark index, which lost 4.80 percent the previous week, added back 3.65 percent this week.
The Topix index of all first-section issues was up 0.01 percent, or 0.18 points, at 1,270.68. It gained 3.45 percent over the past five sessions, after losing 4.14 percent the previous week.
Trading was muted on Friday with many investors away for Japan's traditional mid-summer holiday.
"With volume so light and incentives so few, the selling we're seeing today is nothing more than rudimentary after a stretch of strong gains," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.
"It's entirely possible, however, that even following the resumption of 'normal' trading next week, overall market movements will remain somewhat subdued," he told Dow Jones Newswires.
In currency markets, the dollar fetched 102.54 yen in afternoon Tokyo trade, compared with 102.45 yen in New York.
Skymark shares rose 1.19 percent to 169.0 yen after the airline said it was terminating some domestic services and raising fares as it faces potentially huge penalties in the wake of a cancelled jet order with European plane manufacturer Airbus.
Sony climbed 2.12 percent to 1,874.0 yen after the Nikkei business daily reported the firm plans to sell image sensors for cameras used in vehicles.
The consumer electronics and entertainment giant is looking to tap new growth markets on the back of a move toward driverless cars and other "smart" vehicles that depend on image sensor technology, the newspaper said.
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