TOKYO - Japanese stocks retreated on Thursday morning as a pause in the weakening of the yen gave investors an excuse to book profits, though financials extended their outperformance on rising U.S. yields.
The Nikkei share average fell 0.7 percent to 19,310.02 in midmorning trade after scaling near six-week highs earlier this week.
Exporters lost ground as the dollar took a breather after rallying in the wake of upbeat U.S. economic data, which had briefly set off market talk of a possible rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve at next month's meeting.
Toyota Motor Corp dropped 0.9 percent, Tokyo Electron Ltd tumbled 2.7 percent and Daikin Industries Ltd
At 0405 GMT, the dollar was down 0.3 percent at 113.84 yen .
"After the market rose recently, a correction is natural, but the mid-term outlook isn't bad thanks to strong earnings results," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities.
As of Feb. 10, 1,175 companies excluding financials which reported their third-quarter earnings posted an average of 9 percent rise in its pre-tax profit on the year, according to Mizuho Securities. For the full year ending March, the companies expect a 5.5 percent fall in their pre-tax profits, compared to a previously forecast 8.7 percent fall, Mizuho said.
Financial stocks bucked the weakness and tracked their U.S. peers after benchmark Treasury yields rose to 2-1/2-week highs on Wednesday, helped along by data showing accelerating U.S. inflation last month.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 0.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group gained 0.1 percent. Tokio Marine added 1.1 percent while Sompo Holdings advanced 0.6 percent.
The broader Topix dropped 0.5 percent to 1,546.43 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 0.5 percent to 13,871.98.