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TOKYO, April 4 (Reuters) - The Nikkei average is expected to open lower on Thursday, ahead of the outcome of the Bank of Japan's policy-setting meeting, on concerns over the U.S. recovery after weak service sector data and a slowdown in job hiring by private employers. The Nikkei is likely to trade between 12,000 and 12,300, strategists said, while Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 12,185 on Wednesday, down 1.4 percent from the Osaka close of 12,360. Data from the United Stated provided an early bearish lead for the Nikkie. U.S. private employers added 158,000 jobs last month, its weakest pace in five months, while growth in the vast service sector slowed, raising concerns that the economic recovery could be hitting a soft patch. The focus in the local market, however, was on the all-important outcome of the BOJ meeting. "Because of the falls in Wall Street and Nikkei futures in Chicago, the Nikkei would start trading lower and then hover at the level until the outcome of the BOJ meeting," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. "Even if the outcome is in line with the previous forecast, or less, if Governor (Haruhiko) Kuroda can give the market an impression that more aggressive measures will follow later this month, at the second meeting scheduled on 26th, or a clear impression of a 'regime change', the market would still place high hopes on the BOJ's future easings," Doshida said. The BOJ, which ends its two-day meeting later in the day, is expected to embark on a bold experiment by pulling out all the stops to get consumer prices rising, starting with ramping up its bond buying and extending the maturities of that debt. The benchmark Nikkei surged 19.3 percent in January-March, its best quarterly performance in nearly four years, on expectations that the central bank would undertake massive monetary stimulus to drag the world's third-largest economy out of deflation, and revive growth. The Nikkei rebounded 3 percent to 12,362.20 on Wednesday, its biggest one-day percentage gain in two months after shedding 3.2 percent in the previous two sessions. The broader Topix index climbed 1.9 percent to 1,010.43. > Wall St falls on signs of weak economy, North Korea > Dollar weakens broadly ahead of ECB, BOJ meetings > Treasuries rise as ADP data tempers job hopes > Gold hits 9-month low as crude and equities slump > Oil down most in 5 months as US inventories near record STOCKS TO WATCH --MAZDA MOTOR CORP Mazda and its joint venture in China sold 15,734 cars in the country in March, down 25.2 percent from a year earlier, the Japanese automakers said on Wednesday. Japanese car makers' sales in the world's second-largest economy in the first three months of the year have yet to recover fully from last year's slump, and foreign rivals are capitalising in a market expecting 7 percent growth in 2013. --MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORP Mitsubishi Motors is recalling 8,263 Outlander crossover vehicles in the United States and Puerto Rico for three different issues related to brake lights, fuel gauges and shifting the vehicles out of part, federal regulators said on Wednesday.