Tokyo stocks edge down on profit taking

Tokyo stocks edged down on Tuesday as late profit-taking wiped out early gains, with traders warily eyeing escalating threats from North Korea.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed down 0.24 points at 13,192.35, but the Topix index of all first-section issues was up 0.03 percent, or 0.30 points, at 1,102.04.

"Market participants cashed in their recent gains in late trading, which offset early gains of the day," said Hirokazu Fujiki, strategist with Okasan Securities.

"Today's profit-taking is quite understandable as the Nikkei index has surged so fast for the past weeks," Fujiki said.

On Monday, the benchmark Nikkei index soared 2.80 percent to close at its highest level in more than four years as a further drop in the yen's value ignited buying of exporters' shares.

"Market players were also cautiously watching the North Korean situation, although it was not a major factor in moving the market today," Fujiki added.

North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases including in Japan and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.

The dollar rose to around 99.65 yen early in the morning, to hit its highest level since May 2009 but lost ground to 98.94 yen in afternoon trade, compared with 99.36 yen in New York on Monday.

The dollar's rise stalled owing to profit-taking cued by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso's comments Tuesday that the yen's excessive strength was being corrected, as well as on dollar selling by exporters, market players said.

The euro changed hands at 128.80 yen from 129.23 yen in US trade. The European common currency gained to $1.3023 from $1.3005.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 14,613.48, up 48.23 points or 0.33 percent, on Monday in anticipation of the earnings season, which kicks off this week.

On the Tokyo bourse, exporters ended mixed as Sony fell 1.61 percent to 1,643 yen while Toyota declined 0.56 percent to 5,270 yen, but Panasonic jumped 2.33 percent to 658 yen.