TOKYO , Dec. 16 -- ( Kyodo ) _ (EDS: ADDING INFO) The Nikkei stock index finished Monday at its lowest level in nearly one month on selling prompted by a firmer yen and weaker Chinese economic data, while uncertainty over the timing of a U.S. monetary policy shift continued to haunt investors. The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended down 250.20 points, or 1.62 percent, from Friday at 15,152.91, its lowest finish since Nov. 20 . The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished 15.93 points, or 1.29 percent, lower at 1,222.95. All of the 33 sectors declined, with automaker, consumer finance and textile shares leading the way. The Nikkei opened higher but soon fell into negative territory and expanded its losses as time wore on in lackluster trading ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting from Tuesday. Automakers and other export-oriented shares faced selling as market optimism over their earnings was eroded by the dollar's fall to the upper 102 yen range, off more than one yen from its more than five-year high of 103.92 yen hit Friday. The Nikkei's downswing accelerated in the afternoon after the release of data showing the preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 50.5 in December, down from November's 50.8, and Asian stocks fared sluggishly. "Given the lackluster performance of Asian shares, and the yen's strengthening both against the dollar and the euro, rather than taking pause from its depreciation, selling took the upper hand," said Hiroichi Nishi , assistant general manager of equity research at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. The Bank of Japan's Tankan survey showed business confidence among large Japanese manufacturers improved in December from three months earlier for the fourth straight quarterly improvement. But it failed to give a boost to the market as it also showed the makers project sentiment to deteriorate in the next three months and big companies lowered their capital investment plans for the current fiscal year. "Considering the yen's move, and the Tankan survey showing a pessimistic outlook, selling weighed on the market while many players sat on the sidelines ahead of the FOMC meeting later this week," said Hiroaki Hiwada, strategist at Toyo Securities Co. Exporting companies were hit by selling, with Toyota Motor shedding 120 yen , or 1.9 percent, to 6,060 yen and Nissan Motor down 18 yen or 2.0 percent to 871 yen . Honda Motor was down 115 yen , or 2.8 percent, to 4,060 yen after announcing a recall of nearly 20,000 Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicles in the United States due to a propeller shaft problem. Sony and Panasonic also lost more than 1 percent. Office equipment supplier Askul tumbled 220 yen , or 6.7 percent, to 3,050 yen after reporting its group net profit for the May to November period plunged 70 percent from a year earlier. Declining issues exceeded advancing ones 1,527 to 180 on the First Section, while 66 closed unchanged. Trading volume on the main section came to 2,245.56 million shares, compared with Friday's 3,598.93 million shares.
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