Nikkei flat as concerns about U.S. persist, Sharp gains
* Risk aversion keeps market directionless-trader * Sharp jumps 7 percent on investment talks By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average held steady on Wednesday, as worries about a potential U.S. fiscal crisis and Europe's debt woes capped gains, while Sharp Corp rose on news of a possible investment. Sharp rose 7 percent as sources said U.S.-based Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc are in talks to jointly invest about 30 billion yen ($378 million) in the debt-stricken consumer electronics maker. But other exporters, whose performances depend on the health of the global economy, weakened. Toshiba Corp, Komatsu Ltd and Nikon Corp shed between 0.6 and 1.5 percent. "We all saw that companies reported weak earnings and cut their full-year outlooks. We cannot buy stocks whose products are particularly sensitive to global demand," said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive of Myojo Asset Management, adding that trading may stay directionless while investors are risk averse. The Nikkei was flat at 8,664.38 after falling for a seventh straight session on Tuesday. The broader Topix index was also flat at 722.31. Aiful Corp climbed 9.6 percent to 263 yen, recovering from Tuesday's 9.8 percent slide, after the consumer financing company reported a 53.6 percent year-on-year rise in first-half operating profit to 14.5 billion yen. "Since volume is expected to stay low, the cash market is likely to be swayed by futures trading," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities. "Although a technical rebound is possible after the Japanese market has dropped a lot, with such lingering concerns on the U.S. and Europe, investors are staying risk averse." Concerns about the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff" may keep trading subdued as lawmakers returned to Washington after the Nov. 6 election. The market is grappling with how a divided U.S. Congress will deal with the series of mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that start next year and could take the world's largest economy back into recession. Serious negotiations are still weeks away, analysts said. A euro-zone finance ministers' meeting on Monday gave Greece two more years to make cuts, but held off disbursing more aid as the euro zone and IMF clashed over a longer-term target date to shrink the country's debt. The benchmark is still up 2.4 percent so far this year but lags behind a 9.3 percent rise in the U.S. S&P 500 and a 10.6 percent gain in the pan-European STOXX Europe 600.