Nikkei slides on yen worries as investors brace for U.S. data

TOKYO, May 24 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell in thin trade on Tuesday morning as the yen’s gains on the dollar overnight and indications Tokyo is reluctant to intervene to weaken the currency soured the mood, taking a toll on exporters and other currency-sensitive shares.

The Nikkei share average slid 0.7 percent to 16,540.52 in late morning trade.

Risk-appetite was further weakened by receding expectations that Japan can act to weaken its currency after a fresh warning from the United States last week against intervention.

That sentiment was reinforced by comments from Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, who said on Tuesday that Japan has no intention to devalue the yen sharply and consistently.

The yen’s relative strength dimmed the profit outlook for a broad range of exporters. Home appliance and electronics exporter Panasonic Corp fell 1.8 percent while tyre exporter Bridgestone Corp was 1.3 percent lower in late morning trade.

Japan’s automakers, which rely heavily on export sales for profits, were also lower with shares of Toyota Motor Corp declining 1.2 percent and Mazda Motor Corp slipping 2 percent.

“Things are very central-bank driven at the moment,” said Gavin Parry, managing director at Parry International Trading.

“Japan Inc. has reported its earnings and with no other catalysts on the horizon investors are going to remain very focused on what central banks are doing.”

Hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve presidents in San Francisco and St. Louis raised expectations for near-term Fed rate hikes, but many investors in Japan remain on the sidelines ahead of a raft of U.S. economic data due to be released later in the week.

“There’s only so much the dollar can rally in the absence of proof that the data will compel the Fed to act in June or July,” said Shahab Jalinoos, global head of FX strategy at Credit Suisse in New York.

U.S. data on new home sales, durable goods orders, consumer sentiment and first-quarter GDP are set to be released throughout the week.

The broader Topix fell 0.6 percent to 1,330.20 in late morning trade and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.7 percent to 12,007.56. (Reporting by Joshua Hunt; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)