Nikkei ends flat, exporters offset gains in China-linked shares
* Exporters under pressure as yen rises on QE expectations * Komatsu, HCM extend gains on China infrastructure spending plans * Tech firms hurt by Intel's disappointing earnings By Sophie Knight TOKYO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average closed flat on Monday, with losses from exporters hurt by a strong yen cancelling out gains for China-related firms boosted by the country's infrastructure drive. Technology firms also came under pressure after Intel Corp cut its third-quarter revenue estimate more than expected on Friday due to declining demand for its chips as customers reduce inventories and businesses buy fewer personal computers. Weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data boosted expectations of another round of quantitative-easing via bond purchases from the Fed, which weighed on the dollar against the yen, hurting Japanese exporters' competitiveness even though more stimulus could help boost demand for their products. The Fed will hold its policy meeting on Sept. 12-13. "The benchmark isn't going to move much in either direction while everyone is waiting for the Fed's decision, but the strong yen is creating a heavy upside," said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities. The Nikkei ended down 0.03 percent at 8,869.37 after rallying 2.2 percent on Friday, its biggest one-day percentage gain in five months, on the back of the European Central Bank's plan to buy bonds of highly-indebted euro zone countries to tackle the bloc's debt crisis. Demand from investors for Nikkei call options has outnumbered demand for put options. Societe Generale analysts said in a note that the most popular call options on the Nikkei with a September maturity had a strike price at 9,000, or 1.5 percent above Monday's close. The next most traded was a call at 9,250 , followed by a put at 8,750 and another put at 8,500. Exporters weighed down by a strong yen included Canon Inc , Nissan Motor Co, Nikon Corp and TDK Corp, down between 1.4 and 2.9 percent. Chipmaker Tokyo Electron Ltd lost 3.3 percent and Advantest Corp, a maker of chip-testing-devices, dropped 4.4 percent on Intel's poor earnings. But construction machinery makers Komatsu Ltd advanced 3.2 percent and Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd gained 2.2 percent, extending sharp gains from Friday, when China approved 60 infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion as it looks to energise an economy mired in its worst slowdown in three years. The Nikkei China 50, an index of 50 Japanese companies with high exposure to China, outperformed the market with a gain of 0.5 percent. "The benchmark is linked to the Chinese stock market, which is very weak at the moment. We would see big gains in Japan if there was a rebound in China," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management. The Nikkei is only up 4.9 percent so far this year, compared with a 14.3 percent rise in the U.S. S&P 500 and a 11.4 percent gain for the STOXX Europe 600. "People are still worrying about a slowdown in the real economy. Central bank policies are behind the curve. That kind of concern is casting a shadow over the market," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of equities and commodity derivatives at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. There are also worries that further easing from the Fed could be negative for Japanese stocks as it would weaken the dollar against the yen, adding more pressure to exporters. However, some market players say that stimulus would also improve sentiment, lessening investors' hunger for the "safe haven" Japanese currency. "QE3 would make the market very risk-on, which means a softer yen -- whereas if the Fed decides not to do anything at all, that would be bad for the Japanese market," said Akino of Ichiyoshi Investment Management. Market players say action from the Fed could also prompt the Bank of Japan to ease further at its next policy meeting on Sept. 18-19, possibly by expanding its budget for exchange-traded funds to prop up the market. Mitsubishi Paper Mills Ltd climbed 4.8 percent on short-covering after the stock unexpectedly kept its place in the Nikkei index during a review of the benchmark. Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co Inc, which was earlier expected to be promoted to the benchmark, shed 2.7 percent after failing to be included. The broader Topix added 0.3 percent to 737.34 on Monday. Trading volume was relatively light, at 89.4 percent of its 90-day average.
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