TOKYO: Tokyo shares opened lower Thursday as investors sought new cues while monitoring tensions over Ukraine and digesting healthy US indicators.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index eased 0.11 percent or 28.96 points to 27,431.44 in early trade, while the broader Topix index lost 0.15 percent or 2.98 points to 1,943.65.
The dollar stood at 115.34 yen, slightly off from 115.46 yen seen on Wednesday in New York.
Analysts described the market trapped in a narrow range as investors took in solid US economic data to gauge whether the world's biggest economy can sustain its strength in the face of likely rate hikes.
The Tokyo market was also subject to profit-taking after the Nikkei surged more than two percent on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, investors continued to monitor developments surrounding Ukraine as the country's leader, NATO and Washington warned they could see no sign that Russia is withdrawing its forces.
"There are many uncertain factors such as the situation surrounding Ukraine," Okasan Online Securities said.
"However, once the market regains its calm, our view is that investors will take heart from the fundamental strength of the US economy."
Fed minutes released overnight contained no new bombshells, although some investors are staying cautious over the US central bank's plan to hike interest rates, Okasan added.
Still, robust US retail sales data should help encourage investors to see the market's strength.
Shortly before the market opened, Japan's government reported a January trade deficit of 2.19 trillion yen ($18.98 billion) as energy import prices rose while the value of the yen sagged to raise the general cost of imports.
Among major shares in Tokyo, Toyota dipped 1.46 percent to 2,160.5 yen. Sony Group fell 1.01 percent to 12,210 yen and SoftBank Group fell 0.76 percent to 5,196 yen.
Uniqlo-operator Fast Retailing shed earlier losses and added 0.47 percent to 64,730 yen.
Industrial robot maker Fanuc dropped 1.51 percent to 22,900 yen.
Japan's government was later Thursday expected to announce a slight easing of Japan's strict virus border rules. Japan Airlines added 1.37 percent to 2,438 yen. Its rival ANA Holdings surged 1.48 percent to 2,708 yen.