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Tokyo stocks close lower after weaker-than-expected GDP

Tokyo stocks closed lower on Thursday after the release of weaker-than-expected growth data in Japan and with ongoing doubts over a US-China trade deal.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.76 percent, or 178.32 points, to 23,141.55, while the broader Topix index was down 0.94 percent, or 15.93 points, at 1,684.40.

Investors faced a slew of negative news items -- slack Japanese growth data, doubts over a US-China trade deal and a stronger yen -- but none of them worrying enough to spark heavy selling.

"It's difficult to take drastic positions now in the absence of drastic news," said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

"We are waiting for a good cue to move," he told AFP.

Japanese government data released early Thursday showed the world's third largest economy grew a much slower-than-expected 0.1 percent in the third quarter.

"The data wasn't good but still in positive territory," Sengoku noted.

"If it had been decisively weak, it would have spawned hopes for a big stimulus package from the government. But it wasn't the case this morning," he said, adding investors needed to watch the retail sector after a hike in consumption tax in October.

There are new signs that Washington and Beijing are not as close to signing a trade deal as investors had hoped but these are also "short of prompting investors to sell actively", Sengoku said.

US President Donald Trump last month announced a "phase one" deal had been agreed with China but efforts to commit the deal to paper appear to have hit roadblocks.

The Wall Street Journal reported Chinese officials hesitated to agree formally to making gigantic purchases of American farm exports.

The dollar was trading at 108.71 yen in Asian afternoon trade against 108.84 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon.

In individual stocks trade, mobile operator SoftBank gained 1.89 percent to 1,509 yen after media reports that its internet business is in final stages of talks on merging with popular messaging service LINE.

The subsidiary, formerly Yahoo Japan and now called Z Holdings, said it was in talks with LINE but has not reached an agreement.

LINE said integrating operations was one measure it was considering to increase its corporate value but nothing has been decided yet.

Z Holdings surged 16.92 percent to 449 yen and LINE jumped 15.37 percent to 5,290 yen after trading was delayed with buy bids overwhelming sell offers.