Nikkei rebounds on bargain hunting; Ukraine concerns still weigh

Mon Mar 3, 2014 9:48pm EST

* Nikkei rises 0.3 pct, Topix up 0.4 pct
    * Volume low as investors await key events, look to Ukraine
    * Real estate companies best performers on short covering

    By Tomo Uetake
    TOKYO, March 4 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average clawed
higher on Tuesday morning after four days of losses as some
foreign investors scooped up battered shares, although concerns
over mounting tensions in Ukraine kept the market on edge.
    The Nikkei was up 0.3 percent at 14,698.52 by the
midday break, after initially falling as much as 0.7 percent.
After jumping 57 percent in 2013, the benchmark is down almost
10 percent so far this year, making it one of the worst
performers in the developed world.
    "I thought the market would fall more but some long-only
investors were buying near 15,000 in the Nikkei today, bidding
relatively cheap shares," said Kyoya Okazawa, the head of global
equity and commodity derivatives at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.
    "Investors seem to think that Russia will take Crimea and
the West will impose sanctions on Moscow but there will likely
be no military clash," he added.
    Also underpinning Tokyo shares was the perception that the
Bank of Japan is likely to increase its stimulus to bolster the
economy, should it deteriorate.
    Still, trading was thin as many investors held off making
new moves given the precarious conditions in Ukraine.
    Trading in Nikkei futures was briefly halted in late morning
trade for more than 20 minutes. The Osaka Securities Exchange
said is looking into the cause of the stoppage. 
    "Fears over Ukraine have heightened and could affect not
only emerging markets but also the global economy, including
that of Japan," Tohru Sasaki, head of Japan rates and FX
research at JPMorgan, said in a note to clients.
    "If the situation in Ukraine deteriorates further, it would
send stock prices lower around the world, push down long-term
interest rates and strengthen the Japanese yen."
    The U.S. State Department said Washington was preparing to
impose sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine,
although no decisions had yet been made, while Ukraine's acting
president said Russia's military presence in Crimea was
growing. 
    Investors were also looking to key events later this week
and next, including the latest U.S. nonfarm payrolls report,
China's annual parliamentary meeting and a Bank of Japan policy
meeting.
    Real estate developers were the best performers on Tuesday,
with the sector's subindex up 2.7 percent on short
covering after their underperformance in recent weeks. The index
is still down almost 20 percent this year.
    Sumitomo Realty & Development rose 3.2 percent and
Mitsubishi Estate rose 2.9 percent.
    Nikkei heavyweight Fast Retailing rose 1.4 percent
after its domestic Uniqlo sales in February rose 0.8 percent
from a year earlier despite heavy snowfall. 
    The broader Topix index was up 0.4 percent at
1,201.58 in subdued trade, with volume at 38.3 percent of the
full daily average for the past 90 trading days as of midday.
    The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index launched this
year comprising firms with high return on equity and strong
corporate governance, rose 0.4 percent to 10,874.09.
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