Tokyo shares softer in holiday trade

TOKYO - Tokyo shares were slightly softer Tuesday morning, as dealers searched for fresh incentives and waited for foreign markets to reopen after the Christmas holidays.

The Nikkei index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange fell 0.45 per cent or 38.53 points to 8,440.81 by noon. The Topix of all first section shares eased 0.34 per cent or 2.47 points to 723.97.

Tokyo shares were expected to stay within a tight range amid a dearth of fresh news, with major European and US markets closed Monday for the Christmas holiday. The London bourse will remain closed on Tuesday.

Once international investors return to the market, they will focus on US economic data, including the Case-Shiller home price index to be released later in the day, said Yumi Nishimura, senior market analyst at Daiwa Securities.

"US housing data have been firm lately," she told Dow Jones Newswires. "More solid data will likely push the Nikkei above 8,500."

Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities, also expressed hope that further bright US data would drive up the Nikkei and other international indices.

"Another strong set of data would buoy the stock market," he said. The forex market was also quiet, with the dollar standing at 77.95 yen (S$1.296), largely unchanged from 77.99 yen (S$1.2967) in Tokyo Monday.

The euro was also flat at $1.3064 (S$1.6847) and 101.84 yen(S$1.6932), compared with $1.3059 (S$1.6836) and 101.88 yen (S$1.6939) on Monday.