Japan's Nikkei closes up on report of econ minister's yen comment
* Nikkei, Topix reverse losses on reported Amari's comments * Market extremely sensitive before BOJ policy meeting - analysts * Sharp soars on plant sale to Lenovo * Boeing 787 Dreamliner suppliers weak By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Nikkei average recouped early losses and closed marginally higher on Thursday after a media report quoted Japan's economic minister as saying his remarks on the yen earlier this week were misinterpreted, lifting exporters' shares before the closing bell. The Dow Jones Newswires quoted Economics Minister Akira Amari as saying that it was regrettable his yen remark on Tuesday was misinterpreted and the yen was "in correction phase" when it was at 89.50 yen to the dollar that day. The report also curbed the yen's rebound, weakening it to trade at 88.71 yen to the dollar, reversing from 88.13 yen earlier. Trading was choppy on Thursday as profit-taking and buying seesawed the index back and forth into negative territory. The Nikkei ended up 0.1 percent at 10,609.64 ppoints, after trading as low as 10,432.97. The dollar fell for a third day versus the yen on Thursday after Amari warned on Tuesday about the potential harm of excessive yen weakness. "The market is extremely sensitive to every word an official makes on the yen, and there may be more such comments (by officials) before the BOJ's policy meeting," said Shun Maruyama, chief strategist at BNP Paribas. Analysts said the Nikkei could trade in a wide range from 10,200-10,900 ahead of the Bank of Japan's next policy review on Jan. 21-22, at which is expected to ease policy further. Amari is likely to attend the BOJ's meeting, a government source said on Wednesday. The BOJ is under intense pressure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose party surged to power in a lower house election in December, to adopt a 2 percent inflation target, or double its current target, and to pursue aggressive easing to beat deflation. "Everyone is nervous at this point," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. "As some of the hopes for monetary easing have been priced into the market, there may be a huge sell-off by hedge funds if the BOJ does not live up to markets expectations." Exporters were in demand, with Toyota Motor Corp rising 1.3 percent, Honda Motor Co Ltd advancing 1.7 percent and Fanuc Corp adding 1.5 percent. The Nikkei has rallied about 22.5 percent over the past two months, driven by a softening in the yen after Abe pressured the central bank to introduce aggressive policy easing. Meanwhile, Sharp Corp soared 7.3 percent after sources told Reuters that it may sell its Chinese TV assembly plant to Lenovo Group as the cash-strapped Japanese TV maker looks to sell assets to bolster its finances. BOEING 787 DREAMLINER SUPPLIERS' SHARES TUMBLE Amid Thursday's directionless trade, shares of Japanese suppliers of Dreamliner stayed weak after Europe, Japan and India on Thursday joined the United States in grounding Boeing Co's 787, a day after a second incident involving battery failure caused one of the Dreamliner passenger jets to make an emergency landing. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Wednesday it would temporarily ground Boeing's newest commercial airliner and insisted airlines would have to demonstrate the lithium ion batteries were safe before they could resume flying. It gave no details on when that might happen. GS Yuasa Corp, which makes the batteries for the Dreamliner, tumbled 5.0 percent, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd , which makes the wings, dropped 0.2 percent to 471 yen, and Toray Industries Inc, which supplies carbon fiber used in the plane's composites, shed 2.0 percent. Toho Titanium Co and Osaka Titanium Technologies Co , which supply titanium for the aircraft's components, declined 1.1 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. The broader Topix rose 0.3 percent to 890.46 in active trade, with 3.93 billion shares changing hands.
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