October 23, 2012 / 1:35 AM / in 5 years

Nikkei steady as weakness in utilities counters exporter gains

* Nikkei flat, Topix down 0.3 pct
    * Kansai Electric Power sags on report of cutting dividend

    By Dominic Lau
    TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average held
steady on Tuesday, as weakness in the utility sector after a
report said Kansai Electric Power would not pay its
dividend countered gains in exporters on the back of a softer
    The Nikkei was flat at 9,010.20 by midmorning after
trading as high as 9,075.58. The index had risen for a sixth
straight session on Monday.
    "There is no doubt that the market is now getting focused on
what the BOJ would do ... Political pressure on the BOJ is
mounting," a senior trader at a foreign bank said.
    "We are in the middle of a range here. 8,500 would probably
be a buy, 9,200 would probably be a sell without any real move
on the currency. If the currency gets through 80 (yen to the
dollar) convincingly, that changes a lot of things."
    Exporters gained as the yen hit a three-month low of 80.02
to the dollar on Tuesday. Sources said the BOJ was leaning
towards easing monetary policy again next week, with
policymakers discussing steps in addition to a further increase
in its asset buying scheme. 
    Among exporters, Toyota Motor Corp rose 0.3
percent, industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp gained 0.5
percent and Nikon Corp added 0.8 percent.
    The broader Topix index slipped 0.3 percent to
    But Kansai Electric Power sank 7 percent after Jiji news
agency said the company would not pay its previously forecast
annual dividend due to soaring cost of imported oil and gas as
the majority of its nuclear reactors remain offline.
    Chubu Electric Power Co shed 4.5 percent and Tohoku
Electric Power Co lost 5.2 percent.
    The benchmark Nikkei is up 6.6 percent this year, lagging a
14 percent rise in the U.S. S&P 500 and an 11.6 percent
gain in the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index.
    The outlook for Japanese corporate earnings remains weak.
    According to Thomson Reuters Datastream, Japanese companies'
one-month earnings momentum -- analysts' earnings upgrades minus
downgrades as a total of estimates -- has deteriorated further
to -12.2 percent from -6.7 percent last month.
    The pace of deterioration for the S&P 500 is not as
pronounced. It worsens to -3 percent from -2.3 percent in

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