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Nikkei languishes, buoyed by intervention wariness

* Resistance holds near 9,600, level of 100-day MA

* Caution on more intervention buoys Nikkei after dip

* Panasonic climbs after report of no stock issue

* Trade is thinnest in over a week

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei stock average dipped on Wednesday, but losses were stemmed after the dollar edged back up towards the 85 yen level and by expectations that a strong yen rise would bring Japanese intervention.

The dollar slipped as low as 84.78 yen, taking the Nikkei with it, after the Federal Reserve’s latest statement on the U.S. economy intensifed speculation that it would take more quantitative easing steps later this year.

But Prime Minister Naoto Kan was quoted by the Financial Times as saying that intervention in foreign exchange markets was “unavoidable” if there were drastic changes in the currency. [ID:nLDE68K2AL]

Japan last week carried out its first intervention in six years, and market players said hope of more was keeping shares solidly supported.

“The downside is actually quite strong, stocks could easily have fallen a lot more,” said Toshiyuki Kanayama, market analyst at Monex Inc.

“Basically there’s a lot less worry about the possibility of a stronger yen, since the market now expects that any trend in that direction will bring more intervention. In that sense, the psychological impact of last week’s intervention is still helping.”

The dollar stood at 84.88 yen JPY=, down 0.3 percent.

Others in the market, though, said the Nikkei had simply fallen so much relative to markets overseas that investors saw little reason to sell at this point.

The Nikkei is currently down roughly 11 percent since the start of the year, compared to a 2.2 percent rise in the S&P 500 .SPX and a 9 percent rise in Seoul shares .KS11.

The benchmark Nikkei .N225 lost 35.79 points to 9,566.32, while the broader Topix .TOPX shed 0.4 percent to 846.52.

Resistance was holding near 9,600, the level of the Nikkei’s 100-day moving average, despite the benchmark narrowly closing above that level on Tuesday.

“Things in Japan aren’t all that good economically, especially in regard to deflation, but shares have been sold quite a lot already and U.S. shares appear to have settled down, both of which will provide support,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

“At the same time, there’s no reason to buy Japan.”

Investors had hoped that, with recent improvements in economic data, the Fed would issue a more upbeat outlook or clarify the measures it would take to stimulate demand.

But Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has ratcheted up the central bank’s focus on the threat of deflation that, combined with a grimmer take on the economy hinting at lower growth projections, appeared to clear the way for a new phase of bond buying, or quantitative easing. [ID:nN20109053] [ID:nN2125043]

The Fed also kept overnight interest rates unchanged near zero, as had been expected.

PANASONIC CLIMBS

Panasonic Corp 6752.T surged 2.4 percent to 1,138 yen after the Nikkei business daily said the company was abandoning the idea of issuing new shares to help finance tender offers currently underway to take total control of two group firms.

Instead, Panasonic will use on-hand liquidity and loans to complete the buyouts of Sanyo Electric 6764.T and Panasonic Electric Works 6991.T, the paper said.

Shares of Sharp Corp 6753.T rose 1.3 percent to 857 yen after it announced plans to buy solar power company Recurrent Energy for up to $305 million to expand its footprint in the solar field. [ID:nN21192343]

But shares of companies with strong exposure to China, such as Komatsu 6301.T and Hitachi Construction Machinery 6305.T, extended losses from the previous day as a row between Japan and China over ownership of islets in the East China Sea dragged on. [ID:nSGE68K0D4]

Komatsu, the world’s second-largest maker of earthmoving equipment, fell 2.5 percent to 1,875 yen and Hitachi Construction lost 2.1 percent to 1,815 yen.

Trade was thin, with 1.47 billion shares changing hands on the Tokyo exchange’s first section, the lowest since Sept 13.

Declining shares outnumbered advancing ones, 886 to 575. (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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