TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average edged lower early on Tuesday as the yen climbed to a three-week high against the dollar, prompting investors to bank profits from the blue-chip exporters that have logged meteoric gains since January.
Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which has surged more than 37 percent this year, slipped 1 percent, while Sony Corp (6758.T) lost 1.6 percent, still bringing its year-to-date gains to 22.3 percent.
By the midday trading break, the benchmark Nikkei index .N225 fell 0.4 percent to 10,068.19, further retreating from a one-year high near 10,255 hit last week, while the broader Topix index .TOPX eased 0.6 percent to 850.88.
The dollar was last trading at 81.89 yen after it hit a three-week low of 81.55 on the EBS trading platform in early Asian trade on Tuesday.
"The yen's return to strength is driving the market break and it is easier for investors to take profits because of this, but there is plenty of dip-buying to provide support," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.
Despite the adjustment, market participants said the Nikkei was unlikely to break below 10,000 in the session as domestic funds were still eager to buy equities in the new financial year which started on April 1.
Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities, said pension funds and insurance firms were likely to be buyers.
"Of course, new money from pension funds is expected to come in, but this will be small allocation buying... supply/demand conditions are expected to improve compared to March," he said.
Hirano said while foreign investors had been net buyers of Tokyo stocks this year, many foreign funds and hedge funds were still not in the market in force.
Deutsche Bank said in a note this week that it estimated foreign investors' remaining buying capacity was 1.2 trillion yen ($14.58 billion), assuming they would buy back net sales made since last July, although the Nikkei's momentum slowed after breaking the 10,000-mark on March 14.
Bucking the overall market, Fuji Media Holdings Inc (4676.T) gained 1.6 percent after Goldman Sachs upgraded the media company to "buy" from "neutral."
Goldman also downgraded Toho Co Ltd (9602.T) to "neutral" from "buy." Toho shares were down 2.9 percent.
Trading volume on the Topix was at 41 percent of its average 90-day full day volume.
YEN OFFSETS GLOBAL DATA
"We have the U.S. jobs report later this week and expectations for the BOJ (Bank of Japan) meeting next week so unless New York shares fall, I think this adjustment will only last for today's session and tomorrow," said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
The BOJ is expected to maintain its easy monetary stance at its two-day policy meeting next week after its aggressive move in February spurred an equities rally and weakened the yen by more than 5 percent.
"Although the immediate economic data (from China and the U.S.) is positive, the hard landing risk is still very much widespread and there is definitely a large correction risk for markets in mid-April to May," said Miura.
The stronger yen offset bullish data out from the United States and China that indicated the likelihood of a steady recovery in the world's two largest economies.
The U.S. S&P 500 .SPX hit a fresh four-year closing high on Monday, buoyed by better-than-expected U.S. manufacturing data which followed a rise in China's Purchasing Managers' Index to an 11-month high.
Manufacturing activity in the euro zone, however, contracted for the eighth straight month in March, underlying the uneven pace of the global economic recovery.
The Nikkei posted its best first-quarter performance in 24 years this year and kicked off the new financial year with modest gains on Monday.
The benchmark has rallied more than 19 percent so far this year on the back of a world-wide equities upturn after a run of robust U.S. economic data and liquidity boosting programs by global central banks.
(The story was corrects to remove extraneous word 'don't' in quote in para 14)