LONDON (CNNfn) - Tokyo ended Thursday as the only Asian market in the red, as concern about the impact of a strong yen sparked a sell-off in export-related stocks. Hong Kong's late rally on the back of Internet fever helped lift other markets.
The upswing in Hong Kong contrasted sharply with the weakness in U.S. technology stocks which affected Japanese sentiment throughout the session.
The Nikkei 225 closed 38 points lower at 16,727.08, as investors started worrying about the longer term impact of the value of the yen.
The sell-off in export-related stocks was sparked by Ministry of Finance figures showing that Japan's current account surplus, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, fell 32.2 percent in February from a year earlier.
Some analysts said Japan's surplus may have hit its peak and could continue to narrow as a strong yen continues to hamper exports. The yen currently stands at 118.6 to the dollar.
Auto stocks were among the biggest decliners, with Toyota Motor down 3.81 percent at 3,530 yen, Honda Motor off 3.75 percent at 5,140 yen and Nissan 1.52 percent lower at 455 yen.
Strong buying of domestic-oriented stocks helped halt the index's slide, typified by the strength of the steel sector. Kawasaki Steel gained 3.46 percent to 239 yen, while Nippon Steel Corp. added 7 yen to close at 259 yen.
Hang Seng's late rally
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng staged a late rally, buoyed by a surge in Hong Kong Telecom shares, which jumped almost 6 percent to HK$19.10. Investors were reacting to a report in a Chinese language daily that the telecom company plans to float its Internet-related business on Nasdaq, Reuters said.
The leading index closed up a little over 1 percent at 11,962.23, just off its high for the year.
The biggest rise in the region came from South Korea's Kospi index, which was up over 5 percent at 722.01. Confidence about the economic outlook drove the buying spree, despite some recent bad news concerning bank insolvencies and corporate debt levels.
Singapore's Straits Times index staged a late rally on the back of Hong Kong's gains to end the session at 1,706.13, a rise of 3 points.
Sydney's All Ordinaries index closed 5 points higher at 3,093.2, Manila blue chips closed up 9 points at 2,177.36, while Taiwan's Weighted index closed almost 100 points up at 7,498.17.
Kuala Lumpur's Composite index was up just under 4 points at 581.90, while Jakarta was up just over 2.7 percent at 447.48. Bangkok was closed for a holiday.
-- from staff and wire reports