Tokyo stocks open lower as trade war fears grow

Tokyo -Tokyo stocks opened lower on Friday as fears of a global trade war grew after Washington announced steel and aluminium tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.39% or 86.87 points to 22 114.95 in early trade while the broader Topix index was down 0.39% or 6.73 points at 1 740.72.

"Markets have strong concerns about a possible global trade war," said Okasan Online Securities chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito.

Investors were "increasingly wary of the possibility that this would drive the US economy down by causing price rises and a negative impact on industry," he said in a commentary.

Wall Street fell on Thursday as Washington announced the metal tariffs.

The announcement by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross immediately drew retaliatory action by Mexico, Canada and threats of the same by the EU, while France called the tariffs "illegal."

Investors were also keeping a watch on Italian politics as populist parties reached a new coalition deal.

They were setting in motion an anti-austerity government in the eurozone's third-largest economy.

Paolo Savona, the eurosceptic economist who the populist coalition originally wanted for economy minister but was rejected by Mattarella, is still part of the cabinet as European Affairs minister.

"The market will need to keep an eye on the path ahead, with a fiscal expansion planned to address Italy's economic under-performance," said David de Garis, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.

In Tokyo trade in individual stocks, Toyota climbed 1.44% to ¥7 021 while Nintendo dropped 1.95% to ¥44 120.

SoftBank Group was up 0.64% to ¥7 816 after General Motors announced SoftBank Vision Fund will invest $2.25bn in GM Cruise self-driving car unit.

The dollar was trading at ¥108.79 against ¥108.81 in New York on Thursday afternoon.

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