Japan stocks fall as U.S. rate outlook boosts yen

TOKYO, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell on Thursday, dragged lower by major exporters after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep rates near zero until at least 2023 sent the yen to a seven-week high against the dollar.

The Nikkei 225 index fell 0.67% to 23,319.37, with consumer discretionary and industrial sectors leading the decline. The broader Topix fell 0.36% to 1,638.40.

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday vowed to keep interest rates near zero until inflation is on track to overshoot its 2% target, pushing the yen to 104.80 per dollar, the strongest since July 31.

The yen’s strength weighed on the auto sector, a major exporter. Honda Motor declined 1.5%, Isuzu Motors Ltd lost 5.09% and Nissan Motor Co fell 2.37%.

The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged at a meeting earlier on Thursday. Traders now focus on BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s press conference, where he is likely to emphasise his willingness to cooperate with new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, analysts said.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were electronics maker Keyence Corp, up 1.26%, followed by convenience store operator Seven & I Holdings Co Ltd , which also rose 1.26%.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were East Japan Railway Co, down 4.67%, followed by Central Japan Railway Co losing 4.11%.

There were 61 advancers on the Nikkei index against 156 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 1.11 billion, compared with the average of 1.13 billion in the past 30 days.

Editing by Uttaresh.V and Devika Syamnath