TOKYO (AP) _ The Tokyo stock market's main index closed slightly higher Thursday, holding its ground a day after falling below the key 12,000 mark for the first time in four months. The U.S. dollar was lower against the yen.

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 15.81 points, or 0.13 percent, to finish at 11,908.39. On Wednesday, the average fell 235.99 points, or 1.95 percent, to close at 11,892.58 _ its lowest level since finishing at 11,843.59 on March 14.

The dollar bought 123.88 yen at 3 p.m. (0600 GMT), down 1.40 yen from late Wednesday in Tokyo and below its late New York level of 123.96 yen overnight.

The Nikkei index crept higher, with investors buying back select stocks that recently suffered losses. Activity, however, was slow ahead of a three-day holiday weekend in Japan.

Financial markets in Japan will be closed Friday for a national holiday.

The broader Tokyo Stock Price Index of all issues listed on the first section was down 4.42 points, or 0.37 percent, to close at 1,195.25. The TOPIX ended down 124.24 points, or 1.98 percent, the day before.

In the currencies market, the dollar weakened against the yen after U.S. President George Bush told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the market should determine the value of the currency.

Some currency traders sold dollars on the possibility that Bush, who normally doesn't comment on currencies, might change the current U.S. policy, which supports a strong dollar.

The euro was traded at 108.06 yen, up from 107.52 yen late Wednesday in Tokyo.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond fell to 1.3550 percent from Wednesday's finish of 1.3650 percent. Its price rose 0.08 point to 98.64.


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