Nikkei tiptoes up as earnings support sentiment; BOJ outcome eyed

Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:06pm EST

* Asahi Group Holdings soars on share buyback and record
profit
    * Chipmakers in favour after U.S. competitor releases strong
forecast
    * BOJ in spotlight, likely to stand pat on policy

    By Sophie Knight
    TOKYO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average
inched up in early trade on Thursday as robust earnings spurred
on chipmakers and a handful of other companies.
    Still, overall buying activity was relatively restrained,
partly as the market was not expecting any fresh easing measures
from the Bank of Japan at the end of its two-day policy meeting
later Thursday.
    "There are no broad catalysts to shift the market today,
particularly because there is basically no expectation of any
action from the BOJ," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at
Monex.
    "All we've got is very mixed movements from individual
stocks."
     By mid-morning, the Nikkei had moved up 0.3 percent
to 11,286.13, while the broader Topix lost 0.4 percent
to 953.28. 
     Investors zeroed in on Asahi Group Holdings Inc,
making it the top-weighted gainer with a rise of 6.4 percent
after the beverage maker said it would buy back up to 30 billion
yen ($322 million) worth of its own shares, or 4.3 percent of
all its issued stock. 
    Asahi also posted record sales and net profit for the year
ended December 31 on Wednesday, and said its appetite for
overseas acquisitions is still strong. 
   Taiyo Yuden Co was the second-most-weighted gainer,
jumping 13.6 percent to its highest level since July 2001 after
the electronic component maker raised its full-year profit
outlook to 3 billion yen, compared with a previous forecast to
break even.  
    Japanese chipmakers Dainippon Screen MFG Co Ltd,
Advantest Corp and Tokyo Electron Ltd posted
gains of between 3.6 and 8.5 percent after a forecast from U.S.
counterpart Applied Materials Inc came out largely
ahead of analysts' estimates as smartphones and tablets drive
sales. 
    However, earnings were a negative catalyst for Oki Electric
Industry Co Ltd, which lost 3.7 percent after the
telecommunication equipment maker cut its operating profit
forecast for the year ending March 31 by 29 percent.
    Investors will also be keeping an eye on the BOJ, which is
widely expected to keep monetary policy steady, but may improve
its assessment of the economy and rebuff growing global concern
that Tokyo is trying to deliberately weaken the yen.
    The currency has slumped 15 percent against the dollar since
mid-November, accelerating as Japan's new government put
relentless pressure on the BOJ to launch more aggressive policy
easing. The yen's slide has sparked concerns of a currency war
due to the risks of competitive devaluations. 
   "Usually the BOJ doing nothing causes a bit of
disappointment, but since there are concerns about the flak
Japan might get at the G20 this weekend for the weakening yen,
standing pat will actually be a relief to the market," said
Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities.
    Exporters were helped by a softer yen on Thursday morning,
following the currency's sharp rebound in the previous session
after a Group of Seven official voiced concern about excessive
moves in the Japanese currency.
    Mazda Motor Corp put on 1.4 percent to snap three straight
days of losses, while Sony Corp gained 2.1 percent.
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