Nikkei edges up in choppy trade; ex-dividend effect limits gains
* Loss of dividend cuts about 90 points from Nikkei - traders * Real estate is best performing sector * Aeon rises on plan to be top shareholder of Daiei * Japan market is in "structural bull market" - JPMorgan By Tomo Uetake TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average edged up in a choppy session on Wednesday as buyers of many shares no longer can get the current year's dividend, which offset a boost to risk appetites from Wall Street's data-led gains. The benchmark Nikkei closed 0.2 percent higher at 12,493.79 after moving in and out positive territory throughout the session. The index is 1.2 percent below a 4-1/2 year high of 12,650.26 struck last Thursday. Traders said the effect of shares going "ex-dividend" - Tuesday was the deadline for share-buyers to be eligible to get dividends for the current financial year - took about 90 points off the Nikkei and about 9 points off the Topix. "The market is quite solid following positive U.S. data, especially when taking into account ex-dividend price declines. Foreign and retail investors are active," Toru Ibayashi, head of wealth management research of UBS Securities Japan. Upbeat U.S. data on home prices and manufacturing released overnight fed optimism about the economy. Ibayashi said investors' focus is now on the Bank of Japan's April 3-4 policy meeting and developments in Cyprus and Europe. Analysts say investors are optimistic expansionary measures will emerge from the new BOJ team's first policy meeting. However, they predict the market could remain edgy about the euro zone's debt problems because of the negative implications for future bailouts from the rescue plan for Cyprus. The broader Topix gained 0.2 percent to 1,046.47 in light trade, with 2.48 billion shares changing hands. Last week's average daily volume was 3.06 billion shares. Real estate companies gained on hopes for the government's reflationary policy, with Mitsui Fudosan rising 3.5 percent and Mitsubishi Estate adding 3.3 percent. The sector sub-index was the day's best performer, rising 2.8 percent. Retailer Aeon Co jumped 6.3 percent on media reports saying it would raise its stake in supermarket operator Daiei Inc to more than 40 percent through a tender offer to Marubeni Corp.. Shares of Daiei tumbled 9.8 percent and Marubeni lost 1.5 percent. After Wednesday's market close, Aeon announced a plan to buy 24 percent of Daiei from Marubeni. Aeon already owns 20 percent of Daei. COMPANIES' FORECASTS IN SIGHT Exporters were mixed, with Sharp Corp dropping 4.1 percent, Toyota Motor Corp and Nikon Corp falling 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent respectively. Panasonic Corp jumped 5.2 percent and Bridgestone Corp gained 2.4 percent. "If the dollar trades above 95 yen, we may even see the index climb back to near a recent high quickly on exporters' gains," said Naoki Fujiwara, a fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management. The dollar last traded at 94.72 yen. The benchmark Nikkei has rallied about 44 percent since mid-November, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an opposition leader at the time, started calling for bold monetary easing and expansionary fiscal policy to revive the economy. Analysts said that gains seem to have paused as trading became subdued near the end of Japan's fiscal year, but long-term views of the Japanese market remain bullish. "We think Japanese equities are poised to stay in a structural bull market. While a 'pause for breath' is long overdue, the fundamental case remains strong, with rising visibility of earnings set to pull the market higher over the coming nine to 12 months," Jesper Koll, head of Japanese equity research at JPMorgan wrote in a report. "Micro factors rather than macro ones look set to become the key catalyst for the next up-leg in the market," he wrote.