Nikkei ends with small losses as risks of imminent Ukraine conflict recede

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TOKYO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average continued to pare losses in Friday's afternoon session, as investors took some solace from news that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov next week, suggesting an invasion of Ukraine wasn't imminent.

The Nikkei (.N225) ended the day 0.41% lower at 27,122.07, after sinking as much as 1.62% early in the morning session.

The broader Topix (.TOPX) declined 0.36% to 1,924.31, paring earlier losses as steep as 1.33%. Growth stocks suffered deeper declines, with a share index (.TOPXG) down 0.45% versus a 0.28% retreat for value shares (.TOPXV).

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"It looks like the market may calm down for the time being" after the news of the diplomatic meeting, said a market participant at a domestic securities firm.

"Ahead of the weekend, not just buying up stocks but selling off stocks is scary, so there's likely to be a retracement as stocks look oversold."

Chipmakers sank, with Tokyo Electron's (8035.T) 2.42% decline enough to make it the Nikkei's biggest drag by index points. Peers Advantest and Renesas (6723.T) dropped 2.05% and 1.25%, respectively.

Factory robot maker Fanuc (6954.T) was the biggest percentage decliner, down 5.79%, followed by Nikon's (7731.T) 4.25% slide, and tech company Trend Micro's (4704.T)3.67% retreat after financial results disappointed investors.

Energy was the worst performing sector on the Nikkei, tumbling 2.26% amid a decline in oil prices. Financials shed 0.99% amid a retreat this week in global long-term yields as Ukraine worries weighed.

About three Nikkei stocks fell for every two that advanced.

Shippers were among the winners, with Mitsui OSK Lines (9104.T), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (9107.T) and Nippon Yusen (9101.T) the Nikkei's three biggest percentage risers.

The larger gainer by index points was Uniqlo store operator Fast Retailing (9983.T), which added 1.00%, followed by startup investor SoftBank Group's (9984.T) 1.31% jump.

For the week, the Nikkei booked a 2.07% slide - resuming declines after a two-week respite - as twists in the Ukraine saga weighed, even as the risks of accelerated monetary tightening in the U.S. took a step down. read more

The Topix registered a 1.95% retreat, also a first drop in three weeks.

"We're at a level where investors would want to buy the dip, but at the same time, the elevated geopolitical risk means it's just as easy to see another step lower depending on the news flow," said another market participant at a domestic securities firm.

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Reporting by Tokyo markets team; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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