February 26, 2014 / 2:00 AM / 4 years ago

Nikkei slips from 4-week high after U.S. data sours mood

* Further U.S. data in focus this week
    * Panasonic soars on battery investment report
    * Market outlook seen depending on sales tax-hike impact

    By Ayai Tomisawa
    TOKYO, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average slipped on
Wednesday after hitting a four-week closing high the previous
day, as investors' risk appetite cooled after weak U.S. economic
data pulled down Wall Street stocks.
    Bucking the weakness, Panasonic Corp jumped 6
percent to a three-week high after the Nikkei newspaper said the
firm was inviting several Japanese suppliers to join it in
investing in a U.S. car battery plant it plans to build with
Tesla Motor Inc. 
    The Nikkei shed 0.7 percent to 14,953.20 in
midmorning trade after rising 1.4 percent to 15,051.60 on
Tuesday. The benchmark on Tuesday had traded above the
psychologically important resistance line of 15,000 for the
first time since Jan. 31.
    "For the rest of the week, the Nikkei may see directionless
trade and a lack of volume because investors need more catalysts
to take positions," said Masashi Oda, chief investment officer
at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank. "The benchmark may stay between
14,500 and 15,000."
    He said investors would continue to focus on U.S. economic
data such as new home sales and durable goods due this week.
    On Tuesday, mixed U.S. economic data left investors jittery,
with a closely watched housing survey showing home prices rose
slightly more than expected in December, but February consumer
confidence fell short of expectations.
    In the longer term, investors remain bullish on Japanese
stocks, analysts said.
    "The Abe bull market is not over, but we may have to wait to
see how the Japanese economy responds to the sales tax increase
before you get another big rally," said Christopher Wood, an
equity strategist at CLSA.
    "If the Japanese economy is resilient when the sales tax
increase happens, that will make people think that the whole Abe
story is actually working," he said, referring to Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe's economic policies.
    He also said that if the economy is hurt by the April sales
tax increase - to 8 percent from 5 percent - the market will
expect the Bank Of Japan to ease its monetary policy further.
    Exporters fell as the yen's weakening trend took a pause.
Toyota Motor Corp lost 1.2 percent and Nikon Corp
 dropped 1 percent.
    The dollar shed 0.3 percent against the yen and last stood
at 102.20 yen.
    Tuesday's big gainers lost ground on profit-taking, with
Fast Retailing Co falling 1.6 percent. SoftBank Corp
 dropped 1.2 percent, after climbing 4.7 percent on
Tuesday on a report that the company was seeking to buy a stake
in Line Corp, a mobile-messaging service controlled by South
Korea's Naver Corp.
    The broader Topix index slipped 0.7 percent to
    The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index launched this
year comprising firms with high return on equity and strong
corporate governance, fell 0.6 percent to 11,088.75.

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