Nikkei steady as weakness in utilities counters exporter gains
* Nikkei flat, Topix down 0.3 pct * Kansai Electric Power sags on report of cutting dividend By Dominic Lau TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average held steady on Tuesday, as weakness in the utility sector after a report said Kansai Electric Power would not pay its dividend countered gains in exporters on the back of a softer yen. The Nikkei was flat at 9,010.20 by midmorning after trading as high as 9,075.58. The index had risen for a sixth straight session on Monday. "There is no doubt that the market is now getting focused on what the BOJ would do ... Political pressure on the BOJ is mounting," a senior trader at a foreign bank said. "We are in the middle of a range here. 8,500 would probably be a buy, 9,200 would probably be a sell without any real move on the currency. If the currency gets through 80 (yen to the dollar) convincingly, that changes a lot of things." Exporters gained as the yen hit a three-month low of 80.02 to the dollar on Tuesday. Sources said the BOJ was leaning towards easing monetary policy again next week, with policymakers discussing steps in addition to a further increase in its asset buying scheme. Among exporters, Toyota Motor Corp rose 0.3 percent, industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp gained 0.5 percent and Nikon Corp added 0.8 percent. The broader Topix index slipped 0.3 percent to 751.39. But Kansai Electric Power sank 7 percent after Jiji news agency said the company would not pay its previously forecast annual dividend due to soaring cost of imported oil and gas as the majority of its nuclear reactors remain offline. Chubu Electric Power Co shed 4.5 percent and Tohoku Electric Power Co lost 5.2 percent. The benchmark Nikkei is up 6.6 percent this year, lagging a 14 percent rise in the U.S. S&P 500 and an 11.6 percent gain in the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index. The outlook for Japanese corporate earnings remains weak. According to Thomson Reuters Datastream, Japanese companies' one-month earnings momentum -- analysts' earnings upgrades minus downgrades as a total of estimates -- has deteriorated further to -12.2 percent from -6.7 percent last month. The pace of deterioration for the S&P 500 is not as pronounced. It worsens to -3 percent from -2.3 percent in September.
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