Japan’s Nikkei share average fell to 2-1/2 week lows on Monday as the yen strengthened and as financial stocks dropped on lower U.S. yields.

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The Nikkei was down 1.4 percent at 19,012.43 points by midmorning, after falling to as low as 18,995.55, its weakest level since Feb. 9.

Exporters lost ground as the dollar dropped to as low as 111.925 yen on Friday, its first foray below the 112 level since Feb. 9.

During Asian trade on Monday, the dollar slipped a further 0.2 percent to 112.00 on worries that U.S. President Donald Trump’s first major policy address to Congress on Tuesday will not offer many new details on his tax reform or spending pledges.

Honda Motor Co dropped 2.2 percent, Advantest Corp shed 2.0 percent and Panasonic Corp declined 3.6 percent.

"Investors recently confirmed that Japanese corporate earnings will likely be strong next fiscal year. But if the dollar falls below 110 yen, such hopes will change," said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities.

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Takahashi said that while analysts expect a double-digit gain in Japanese companies’ pretax profits for the next fiscal year starting April, a dollar-yen level below 110 would stoke concerns that companies may not achieve expected growth.

Financial stocks such as insurers and banks sharply underperformed the overall market after U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields dropped to five-week lows on Friday.

The insurance sector tumbled 3.7 percent and was the worst performer on the board, while the banking sector was down 2.4 percent.

Dai-ichi Life stumped 4.2 percent, T&D Holdings dived 4.5 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group fell 2.7 percent.

Mining stocks were also on the defensive after oil prices tumbled about 1 percent on Friday after U.S. crude inventories rose for a seventh straight week. Oil prices were little changed in early Asian trade on Monday.

Inpex Corp tumbled 3.5 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration dropped 2.1 percent.

The broader Topix fell 1.3 percent to 1,529.40 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 1.4 percent to 13,700.22.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

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