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    Japan's Benchmark Nikkei Average Hits Two-Week Low

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    It's been just over two months now since the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan. And as the government struggles to rebuild--a spokesman says banks may be asked to ease loans for TEPCO, the owner of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant. That was bad news for banks today; but the markets were good to Japan's automakers. Here's more.

    Japan's Nikkei average hit a two-week low on Friday (May 13), as bank shares tumbled after the government spokesman said that banks are likely to be asked to ease troubled TEPCO's loan burden.

    The benchmark Nikkei average closed, down 0.7 (seven tenths of a percent) percent at 9,648, while the broader Topix fell 1.1 percent to just under 840.

    Shares in utilities also took a hit, after Japan's government approved a plan to help TEPCO compensate victims of the crisis at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.

    Foreign investors flocked to buy automakers like Nissan and Toyota, due to concrete details of their post-earthquake recovery plans.

    Nissan gained 3.7 percent to 824 yen after the carmaker reported a stronger than expected 7.2 percent rise in quarterly operating profit, despite Japan's earthquake.

    It also predicted its global output would return to normal by October.

    Toyota rose 1.3 percent to 3,415 yen and Honda gained 1.6 percent to 3,150 yen.

    And commodity stocks extended their losses, with Index shedding 1.6 percent to 554,000 yen, JX Holdings slipping 1.7 percent to 528 yen and Sumitomo Metail Mining dropping 1.4 percent to 1,333 yen, hit by ongoing jitters about volatility in commodity prices.