Nikkei falls to 1-month low as investors cut exposure before holidays
* Players reduce market exposure ahead of Japan's "Golden Week" * Uncertainty on global economic outlook saps risk appetite * Bank shares fall on disappointment over BOJ * Murata, Japan Tobacco up By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO, May 1 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks on Friday fell to its lowest level in almost a month as traders reduced their exposure ahead of Golden Week holidays in Japan and as uncertainty around corporate earnings and global economic growth sapped confidence. The Nikkei share average shed 0.4 percent to 19,437.45, briefly falling to as low as 19,434.44, its weakest level since April 6. "Short-term players should be closing their positions ahead of the holidays. But I do not think the market is in for a large correction. Investors still look for upside in the medium- to long-term," said Hiroshi Ono, head of equity investment at Sumitomo Life. As Japanese markets will be shut through May 6 for public holidays, many traders felt it is prudent to reduce market exposure given stock markets have wobbled around the world in the last couple of days. Disappointing earnings from Nokia and some U.S. biotech and internet firms as well as soft U.S. growth figures have unsettled share markets in the United States and Europe. The broader Topix index fell a larger 0.8 percent, hit by declines in bank shares, which some market players say likely reflects disappointment after the Bank of Japan refrained from easing on Thursday. While most market players had expected no fresh stimulus, there had been some speculation of the BOJ making a surprise easing move as it did in October last year. The Tokyo Stock Exchange's bank share subindex fell 1.5 percent, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group down 2.2 percent. Among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's 33 subindustry indexed, 31 were in negative territory, led by shippers, which fell 2.3 percent. Investors also took profits on recent gainers, such as Sony Corp, which fell 2.3 percent after it had forecast its first net profit in three years in the current financial year. It still remains the best performing stock so far this year among the Topix core 30 index of Japan's largest companies by market cap. Bucking the trend, Murata Manufacturing rose 1.2 percent after the electronic parts maker had forecast record profits in the current financial year and a plan to boost dividend. Japan Tobacco rose 3.5 percent after announcing a plan to buy a U.S. e-cigarette company. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 fell 0.6 percent to 14,329.31. The market showed muted response to a series of Japanese economic data published on Friday, including a fall in the jobless rate and tepid consumer inflation. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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