Nikkei drops as Fanuc weighs after weak China sales data
* Bridgestone pulls up tyre companies on strong earnings * Machine tool orders for China weigh on index * Social gaming companies in the spotlight By Sophie Knight TOKYO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average edged down in early trade on Tuesday as investors awaited the appointment of a new Bank of Japan governor, while Fanuc Corp weighed after data showed a sharp drop in machine tool orders to China. The broader Topix edged up 0.3 percent to 965.59 as a softer yen continued to support exporters and stellar profits for tyre maker Bridgestone Corp helped the rubber sector jump 6 percent. Bridgestone's stock soared 9 percent to hit its highest in nearly six years after the tyre maker announced a 50 percent increase in its operating profit for the year ended Dec. 31, and overshot analysts' estimates with its current year profit forecast. The stock was the second-most-traded on the main board. Industrial robotics maker Fanuc lost 3.8 percent, taking 23 points off the benchmark, after the Japan Machine Tool Builders Association said orders to China had dropped 65 percent in January compared to the previous year. The Nikkei edged down 0.2 percent to 11,392.40, after jumping 2.1 percent on Monday to near a 4-year high struck on Feb. 6, when BOJ governor Masaaki Shirakawa said he would leave his post three weeks early for his successor to take his place. The consensus among market players is that the appointment of the new governor is the next big event to determine the direction of the stock market and the yen. On Tuesday, however, analysts said a lack of immediate incentives left investors focusing on individual stocks. "A sense of 'wait-and-see' is going to pervade today," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. "Although people are relieved that Japan 'passed the test' of the G20, there are risks on the horizon: Will people continue buying the dollar and the euro with Walmart earnings, the E.U.'s PMI and the Italian election on the horizon?" Concerns about the euro zone's economic outlook were exacerbated after European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said on Monday the euro's appreciation added downside risks to price stability. Japanese exporters have benefited from the yen's 20 percent fall against the common currency since November, when Shinzo Abe, then a candidate for the opposition leader and now prime minister, began calling for a weaker yen. The yen dipped a little further against the dollar at the weekend after Abe's economic policies escaped direct criticism at a meeting of G20 policymakers in Moscow at the weekend, which investors took as a green light for Japan to continue with its aggressive monetary easing. However, some analysts questioned whether the currency will continue to slide at the same speed as it has over the last 2-1/2 months. "The yen has paused today, and its direction from here on has become a little less unclear, particularly if the U.S. begins to complain about the falling competitiveness of its auto industry," said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, general manager of investment and research at SMBC Friend Securities. "But it's unlikely to return to 80 yen against the dollar and even if it firms I expect exporters will be supported by dip-buying." With automakers taking a breather after seeing robust gains on Monday, social gaming network providers Gree Inc and DeNA Co Ltd were in the spotlight. Gree jumped 5.2 percent after the social gaming network provider said it would buy back 1 percent of its shares, spending up to 3 billion yen, ($32 million) while DeNA was the third-most-traded share on the main board, though its share price was flat.
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