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Nikkei flat as banks rise, but autos fall

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, Mar 31: The Nikkei share average was little changed on Friday, as rises by banks such as Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

were offset by losses in recent gainers such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd.and other auto makers.

There was little market impact from data released before the start of trade, which showed that Japan's core consumer inflation rose 0.5 percent year on year in February, underscoring a slow and steady recovery from deflation.

Concerns about overheating were weighing on the Nikkei after the benchmark topped the 17,000 for the first time in 5-{ years on Thursday, said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities.

''Investors are not really expecting the market to just keep advancing ... As corporate earnings gradually improve, stock prices should reflect that,'' he said.

The Nikkei was up 0.51 point at 17,045.85 as of 0103 GMT, while the TOPIX index was up 0.19 percent at 1,729.93.

At its current level, the Nikkei is set to book its third straight quarter of gains. The average looks likely to rise nearly 5.8 percent for the January-March period, although that is well below the previous quarter's 18.7 percent.

Mizuho, Japan's second-largest bank, put on 0.5 percent to 960,000 yen, adding to a gain of 2 percent in the previous session after a brokerage raised its profit estimates for eight major lenders.

Honda dropped 0.8 percent to 7,340 yen, after gaining in the two previous sessions. Toyota Motor Corp. was down 0.2 percent at 6,460 yen.

Shares in Nikon Corp. rose 4.2 percent to 2,115 yen after it said it expected operating profit to rise 70 percent over the next three years, helped by expanding sales of digital cameras and chip equipment as well as cost cuts.


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