Nikkei flat in choppy trade; Ukraine tension saps risk appetite
* Stronger yen also sours risk appetite - analyst * Foster Electric tumbles on forecast cut By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was flat in choppy trade on Friday morning after two days of losses as investors remained cautious amid tensions in Ukraine, while a stronger yen weighed on risk appetite. The Nikkei was flat at 14,923.24 in midmorning trade after earlier falling as low as 14,853.85. It dropped 0.3 percent the previous day. The benchmark on Tuesday had risen to 15,051.60 - its highest closing level since Jan. 29 - but is now nearly flat on the week. For the month it is down about 0.2 percent. Analysts said the Nikkei might trade in negative territory again on Friday as investors are reluctant to hold positions before the weekend amid the uncertain situation in Ukraine, although strong Japanese data could limit declines. Japanese factory output rose in January at the fastest pace in more than two years and core inflation hovered near a five-year high, government data showed on Friday. "Investors are avoiding risks as they are staying cautious about the situation in Ukraine and emerging markets' assets," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. But he added that optimism about the Japanese economy will likely support the mood, and that there are expectations in the longer term that the Bank of Japan may ease monetary policy further if the April sales tax increase hits the economy. Exporters were lower, with Toyota Motor Corp shedding 1.1 percent and Honda Motor Co falling 0.9 percent. Foster Electric Co tumbled 15 percent to an eight-month low after the company slashed its annual net profit outlook by nearly half, to 2.6 billion yen ($25.5 million). But Sony Corp bucked the weakness and rose 1.4 percent after Citigroup raised its rating to "buy" from "neutral", citing bigger-than-expected growth in its gaming business and hopes that its smartphone strategy will succeed in the United States. The dollar stood at 102.09 yen after hitting a low of 101.72 yen on Thursday due to jitters over possible Russian intervention in Ukraine. The broader Topix index slipped 0.4 percent to 1,211.88. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index launched this year comprising firms with high return on equity and strong corporate governance, dropped 0.4 percent to 10,966.19.