Nikkei seen falling on weak euro zone growth, caution before G20
TOKYO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average is expected to fall on Friday, with exporters likely in the firing line on concerns about a deepening recession in the euro zone and on a firmer yen. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 11,150 to 11,300 on Friday after Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 11,225, down 0.9 percent from the close in Osaka of 11,330. Economic output in the euro zone fell by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, while Germany contracted by 0.6 percent, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis was raging in 2009. It also marked the currency bloc's first full year in which no quarter produced growth, extending back to 1995. The euro zone concerns were somewhat offset by data showing the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected in the latest week, pushing U.S. share indexes up slightly overnight. "It's possible that people will blame the weak growth in the euro zone on the stronger euro. There is a dearth of major events to go on today, and investors will be playing wait-and-see before the G20 this weekend," said Masayuki Doshida, senior analyst at Rakuten Securities. Analysts say that the yen's 15 percent slide against the dollar since mid-November could be criticised at the two-day Group of 20 gathering, as it has sparked concerns of a currency war due to the risks of competitive devaluations. Weakness in the yen, driven by the bold fiscal and monetary policies pursued by new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has helped pull the Nikkei up around 30 percent since November. But some market players say the one-way bet against the yen is now losing steam, with the Japanese currency trading against the dollar at 92.90 yen before the stock market open, below a 33-month low of 94.46 struck on Monday. The Nikkei is also 1.7 percent down from a 33-month high of 11,498.42 hit on Feb. 6, even though rosy earnings helped the benchmark gain 0.5 percent on Thursday to 11,307.28. If the Nikkei falls more than 1.4 percent on Friday it would mark its second straight week of losses, following 12 weeks of gains, its longest such run since 1959. > Wall St ends slightly higher, helped by acquisitions > Euro falters as weak data boosts easing prospects > Yields slip from 10-month highs on Europe growth fears > Gold drops to 6-week low on euro recession fears > Oil rises with US gasoline supply concerns STOCKS TO WATCH -ORIX CORP Japanese financial services firm Orix Corp 8591.T said it is in final talks to buy Dutch asset manager Robeco from its owner Rabobank as a local newspaper reported the companies are close to reaching a deal that could be as much as 3 billion euros ($4 billion). -RAKUTEN INC Online shopping site operator Rakuten posted an operating profit increase of 2.1 percent to 72.26 billion yen ($776 million) for the year ended December 31, thanks to an increase in transactions on smartphones and tablets, despite concerns about a slowdown in the internet shopping market. -YAMAHA MOTOR CO LTD Yamaha Motors cut its operating profit estimate for the year ended December 31 to 18.6 billion yen ($199.87 million)from a previous forecast of 28 billion yen after motorcycle sales in emerging economies slowed.