Nikkei ends flat; market wary over yen, earnings

By Aiko Hayashi and Chikafumi Hodo

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japan’s Nikkei average ended almost flat on Monday, pressured by the yen which stayed near a 15-year high against the dollar and as investors turned cautious ahead of U.S. bank results and the earnings reporting season at home.

The market also struggled to find clear direction due to a dearth of immediate market-moving incentives, with investors looking to take cues from a Group of 20 nations meeting later in the week and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting early next month.

“One of the reasons why investors were reluctant to move actively is that they want to see third-quarter U.S. earnings, with Citigroup reporting later in the day,” said Kazutaka Oshima, president of Rakuten Investment Management.

“What’s behind this is a tug-of-war among views on the United States implementing additional easing measures. If earnings results show that U.S. companies are actually generating strong profits, that would weaken the case for easing expectations.”

The U.S. earnings reporting period picks up steam this week, with 109 S&P 500 companies and 11 Dow components due to report. Among them will be Goldman Sachs (GS.N: ), Bank of America (BAC.N: ), Citigroup (C.N: ) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N: ) (Read more about the money market today. ).

On Monday, the benchmark Nikkei (.N225: ) fell 1.76 points to 9,498.49, while the broader Topix (.TOPX: ) inched up 0.5 percent to 830.52.

In Asia trade, the yen edged up to 81.20 against the dollar, holding near a 15-year high of 80.88 reached on the EBS platform last week.

Shares of Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T: ) slipped 0.9 percent after a source with knowledge of the matter said Ford Motor Co (F.N: ) was planning to sell almost all its remaining stake in the Japanese auto company.

Shares of other exporters were mixed, with Sony Corp (6758.T: ) up 1.8 percent at 2,659 yen and Tokyo Electron Ltd (8035.T: ) down 1.1 percent at 4,715 yen.

The Nikkei drew support from the Nasdaq (.IXIC: ), which rose more than 1 percent as Google surged after blowout third-quarter results on Friday, but traders were expected to be careful about chasing Japanese shares on rallies as the yen remained strong.

MAZDA SOFT

A Reuters poll also showed that Japanese manufacturer confidence, while holding steady in October from the previous month, was seen deteriorating by a record margin over the next three months as companies grapple with the yen’s surge.

“U.S. earnings reports have been solid, but you need to keep in mind that the weak dollar isn’t a catalyst for earnings at Japan’s global companies,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a manager at SMBC Friend Securities.

“It’s likely that buying by foreign investors will wane as the earnings season heats up in Japan.”

Technical charts showed the Nikkei has strong support at its 25-day moving average, now at 9,477, while its next upward targets are its recent peaks around 9,700, marked this month, and 9,800, hit in July.

Some traders pointed to liquidity in the market as a supporting factor for Japanese stocks.

“Basically, foreign funds are flowing into Japan given the current ample liquidity situation in global markets,” said Ryosuke Okazaki, chief investment officer at ITC Investment Partners Corp.

“Japanese shares have lagged behind others, but they are now starting to catch up despite the yen’s strength against the dollar.”

Among individual shares, Mazda’s fall was seen having only a limited effect on the broader stock market. Ford’s stake has been declining, so the move was not seen as a big surprise.

Mazda’s shares fell as much as 4.7 percent to 204 yen soon after the market opened in Tokyo but recovered to end at 212 yen.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking is likely to replace Ford as the largest shareholder in Mazda because Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (8316.T: ) already has a 2.9 percent interest in the Japanese automaker.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial fell 1.2 percent to 2,360 yen.

Shares of Toyota Motor (7203.T: ) gained 1.2 percent to 2,929 yen after the Asahi newspaper reported on Saturday that the world’s largest carmaker was considering building its second car plant in Mexico to boost local output due to the yen’s strength.

Some 1.48 billion shares changed hands on the Tokyo exchange’s first section, its lowest volume since late September.

Advancing stocks outnumbered decliners by more than 2 to 1.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann)

Nikkei ends flat; market wary over yen, earnings