Japan's Nikkei ends slightly higher amid concerns over US economic woes

TOKYO, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock index closed slightly higher on Friday as the yen's retreat gave automakers a boost, although gains were capped by swirling concerns over a U.S. economic recession.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average added 45.68 points, or 0.17 percent, from Thursday to close the day at 27,518.31.

The broader Topix index, meanwhile, gained 4.16 points, or 0.21 percent, to finish at 1,965.44.

Local brokers said that recent economic data had led to renewed fears the U.S. economy could be heading for a recession, punctuated by data this week showing weaker-than-expected private payrolls, along with job openings and factory orders coming in below median market expectations.

They added that while investors took heart in U.S. shares advancing overnight, gains here were capped as investor attention shifted to key U.S. monthly non-farm payroll data due out later in the day, on the back of the recent slew of weak U.S. economic data.

Strategists here said the key employment data would inform the future course of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy, the tightening of which, while helping to tame inflation, has also raised borrowing costs and dealt a blow to the economy.

Automakers finding favor on a weaker yen included Subaru advancing 1.3 percent and Mazda accelerating 1.9 percent.

Semiconductor-linked issues gained traction, with chip-testing equipment maker Advantest adding 1.1 percent, while chip-manufacturing equipment maker Tokyo Electron climbed 2.2 percent.

Shin-Etsu Chemical was another notable winner, adding 0.3 percent, while 7-Eleven chain operator Seven & i Holdings dragged the most on the Nikkei, falling 4 percent, following its earnings missing expectations.

By the close of play, precision instrument, marine transportation and air transportation shares comprised those that gained the most.

The turnover on the final trading day of the week came to 1,999.55 billion yen (15.17 billion U.S. dollars).