Nikkei to trade in tight band, trading houses to gain

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei may trade in a narrow range for a third day on Tuesday, with resource-related shares seen climbing on the back of surging commodity prices, while chipmakers will probably extend their post-quake drops, tracking losses sustained by their U.S. peers the day before.

The Nikkei approached its 200-day moving average at 9,822 in the last two sessions, but that level and the 9,800 line proved too stiff a resistance for a market troubled by lingering uncertainty over the exact impact of the massive earthquake on March 11.

Although it has recovered more than two-thirds of the ground lost during its steep tumble in the aftermath of the disaster, the Nikkei remains nearly 7 percent below its pre-quake levels and market players say the rapid rebound has likely run its course.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nikkei starts coming off the recent levels around the third week of April, after Intel’s earnings are out. If they’re weak, they may push the Nikkei lower,” said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities.

Most analysts predict the Nikkei may fall in mid-May, when Japanese firms release their results for the first quarter of the current financial year, revealing how much damage they sustained after the quake.

Oil-related shares such as Japan’s largest oil and gas developer, Inpex Corp (1605.T: Quote, Profile, Research) and trading houses like Mitsui & Co (8031.T: Quote, Profile, Research) are set to extend gains after oil prices rose to their highest since 2008 on Monday on supply concerns.

Chipmakers such as Elpida Memory Inc (6665.T: Quote, Profile, Research) may slip after the Philadelphia semiconductor index (.SOX: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 0.9 percent. It has lost 2.9 percent over the past four days. (.N: Quote, Profile, Research)

Nomura Securities maintained a neutral view on U.S. semiconductor stocks, citing weakened demand, peak gross margins and higher capital spending in the sector.

The Nikkei (.N225: Quote, Profile, Research) is expected to trade between 9,700 and 9,800 on Tuesday after ending up 0.1 percent at 9,718.89 on Monday.

Nikkei futures in Chicago rose to 9,745 up 35 points from the Osaka close of 9,710.

S&P closes flat, fails to break through resistance (.N: Quote, Profile, Research) > Euro hovers near 5-month high versus dollar View Fed will stay the course boosts bonds (US/: Quote, Profile, Research) > Gold up, silver hits 31-yr highs on inflation worry (GOL/: Quote, Profile, Research) > Oil climbs to highest since 2008 on supply concerns

STOCKS TO WATCH

–Sumitomo Light Metal Industries (5738.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

Sumitomo Light said on Monday it has led a group of Japanese firms in buying U.S.-based ARCO Aluminum from a subsidiary of British oil major BP Plc (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) for $680 million.

–Mitsui & Co (8031.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

Mitsui on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with two Malaysian firms to conduct a study on the feasibility of biogas power generation at palm oil mills in the Southeast Asian country.

–Toyota Motor Co (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

The world’s largest automaker must decide this month which of its North American plants to idle as the automaker grapples with parts supply disruptions caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

–Tokyo Electric Power Co Ltd (TEPCO) (9501.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

TEPCO plans to start paying compensation to those who had to evacuate or suffered other losses due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident before damages have been assessed, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said on Tuesday.

–Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

Mitsubishi is among the unlucky firms who bought the most number of shares in TEPCO ahead of the massive earthquake in Japan, according to data from Thomson Reuters StreetSight.

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Nikkei to trade in tight band, trading houses to gain