Tokyo stocks have ended marginally lower, giving up early gains that were fuelled by a weak yen after data showed the trade deficit surged year-on-year to $US14 billion in March.
The Nikkei 225 index on Monday edged down 3.89 points to 14,512.38, while the Topix index of all first-section shares was off 0.17 per cent, or 1.97 points, at 1,171.40.
“Market players cashed in on the early gain in late trading, which sent the Nikkei into negative territory,” said Kenzaburo Suwa, strategist with Okasan Securities.
“But recoveries are quite likely for the rest of the week as we will have several major events”, including the Japan-US summit, Suwa said.
“Also, a corporate result season is to begin this week, which may encourage players to chase selective shares showing positive results,” he added.
The market was also weighed down as diplomatic sparring between China and Japan intensified over the weekend.
The Shanghai maritime court seized a large freight vessel owned by Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in a dispute over what the Chinese side says are unpaid bills relating to the 1930s.
Tokyo on Monday warned that the seizure threatened ties with China and could undermine the basis of their diplomatic relationship dating back to 1972.
The government said early on Monday that its trade deficit surged last month to $US14 billion ($A14.99 billion), with a weak yen compounding surging imports as consumers rushed to buy before a rise in sales tax.
The poor data sent the yen lower, shoring up export shares.
A weak yen is good for Japanese exporters, making their products more competitive overseas and inflating the value of their repatriated earnings.
The greenback fetched Y102.53 in Tokyo afternoon trading, up from Y102.46 on Friday, while the euro was up at Y141.67 from Y141.46.
Trading has been thin since last week, with most leading financial markets around the world closed on Friday and Monday for Easter.
In Tokyo trade, Toyota ended up 0.10 per cent at Y5,570 and Panasonic was up 0.89 per cent at Y1,123. Sony closed unchanged at Y1,932 after giving up earlier gains.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines tumbled 1.11 per cent to Y355.