Nikkei flat in choppy trade as profit-taking offsets U.S. optimism

Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:15pm EDT

* Canon soars after Nikkei says profit likely risen 50 pct
    * Foreigners net sellers last week

    By Ayai Tomisawa
    TOKYO, April 17 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was
flat in choppy trade on Thursday morning as profit-taking from
the previous day's big gains offset strength in U.S. shares
which rose on confidence  that the Federal Reserve will keep the
interest rates low.
    Canon Inc outperformed the market, surging 2
percent and was the sixth most-traded stock by turnover after
the Nikkei daily reported that the manufacturer's operating
profit likely rose 50 percent for the January-March quarter.
    The Nikkei share average dropped 0.1 percent to
14,407.73 in mid-morning trade after flirting with positive
territory and hit a one-week high of 14,500.66 earlier, moving
far away from a six-month low around 13,885 hit earlier this
month.
    The index rose 3 percent on Wednesday.
    Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp 
shedding 0.7 percent, Honda Motor Co falling 2.1
percent, while Kyocera Corp adding 1.3 percent.
    Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Thursday
morning that the central bank will adjust monetary policy when
needed and reiterated that Japan was making steady progress
toward achieving its 2 percent inflation target as the economy
continues to recover moderately. 
    "There was nothing new in Kuroda's comments. Investors
continue to wait for new cues, especially any inspiring comments
from officials," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment
strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
    Short-term hedge funds have sold Japanese stocks heavily
recently on such concerns as a rout in U.S. tech shares and
worries that the BOJ may not ease further.
    Foreign investors turned net sellers of Japanese stocks for
the week ending on April 12, capital flows data showed on
Thursday. Foreigners sold a net 83.5 billion yen worth of shares
in the week through Apr. 12, after buying a net 223.1 billion
yen in the week before that. 
    However, a Bank Of America Merrill Lynch survey showed that
global fund managers' equity allocations remain overweight on
Japan, although a 8 percent of the managers are underweight the
region for the 12 months.
    Investors continue to focus on such macro factors as moves
by the Japanese government and the BOJ, Merrill said.
    "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to unveil his new growth
strategy in June, and the stock market is looking for a cut in
the corporation tax rate: a phased cut to 25 percent from 35
percent would be a positive surprise," equity strategist Naoki
Kamiyama wrote in a report.
    "Another positive would be additional easing by the BOJ
before July."
    In the U.S., stocks rose after Fed Chair Janet Yellen
reaffirmed the central bank's commitment to keeping interest
rates low even after ending its bond-buying programme, as long
as inflation remains below target and unemployment elevated.
    The broader Topix rose 0.1 percent to 1,167.42, and
the new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.1 percent to
10,625.97.
A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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