* SoftBank contributes hefty 51 points to Nikkei
* Next support line seen at 14,000 - fund manager
* Nikon stumbles after criticized at China consumer show
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, March 17 Japan's Nikkei share average
hovered near a one-month low on Monday morning as escalating
tensions in Ukraine dampened risk-appetite, though SoftBank Corp
soared after its affiliate said it would go public in
the United States.
Trading was choppy as investors remained on edge after
citizens of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine to
join Russia on Sunday.
The Nikkei was flat at 14,332.33 in midmorning trade
after tumbling 3.3 percent to 14,327.66 on Friday, the weakest
closing point since Feb. 14. The benchmark dropped 6.2 percent
last week, marking the biggest weekly drop since last June.
Traders said the mood was cautious after over 90 percent of
Crimean voters chose to break with Ukraine and join Russia on
Sunday, an outcome that was denounced by Western powers and
leaders in Kiev as a sham.
President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin
in a phone call on Sunday that the United States rejected the
results of a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region and warned
that Washington was ready to impose sanctions on Moscow over the
The Nikkei's downside appears to be limited as some
investors are keen to buy back stocks on dips at the current
level, traders said, noting that Japanese companies'
fundamentals are solid.
"You can't justify Japanese companies' recovering earnings
with the current Nikkei level," said a chief portfolio manager
at a Japanese asset management firm. "Reasons for selling are
all due to external factors. As soon as tensions over Ukraine
ease further, people will likely buy back."
SoftBank was the main focus in early trade, jumping as
much as 6.6 percent to a seven-week high of 8,239 yen and was
the most traded stock by turnover after its Chinese e-commerce
affiliate Alibaba Group Holdings decided to hold its
long-awaited share listing in the United States.
Softbank contributed hefty 51.45 points to the
Nikon Corp dropped 4.2 percent to 1,686 yen, the
lowest since Feb. 6 after being criticised on a closely watched
consumer show that said the camera maker had sold defective
products in China and denied local consumers fair treatment in
Exporters lost ground as the dollar held below 102 yen. Sony
Corp dropped 1.9 percent, while Panasonic Corp
shed 1.4 percent. A strong yen cuts Japanese companies'
competitiveness abroad and erodes their offshore dollar profits
The dollar was last traded at 101.53 yen.
The broader Topix index shed 0.3 percent to
The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, a gauge comprising
firms with high return on equity and strong corporate
governance, dropped 0.5 percent to 10,488.09.