Nikkei rises in choppy trade; Toshiba gains on growth prospects
* Toshiba gains on upward revision hopes * Toyota's weak forecast priced in - traders * Rakuten tumbles on poor quarterly results By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, May 9 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged higher on Friday in choppy trade as investors picked up companies with strong growth prospects, such as Toshiba, while concerns about the Ukraine crisis kept investors on edge. Toyota Motor Corp initially fell as much as 2 percent before rising 0.8 percent by midmorning. The automaker forecast a profit decline this fiscal year but traders said the news had been priced into the shares. The Nikkei stock average was up 0.4 percent at 14,216.15 as of 0148 GMT after opening lower. The benchmark was trading below its 25-day moving average of 14,419.29. It has shed 1.7 percent so far this week. Market analysts said investors were staying cautious because many companies have reported conservative guidance during the current earnings season. "It's a bit tricky because on top of companies' conservative forecasts, investors are concerned about the impact of the tax hike," said Kenji Shiomura, an analyst at Daiwa Securities, referring to an increase in the national sales tax last month. He said the market may see directionless trade until investors have digested the results and forecasts from major companies. Toshiba Corp rose 1.8 percent after forecasting record operating profit this business year, helped by strong sales of power grid equipment and robust income from flash memory chips. Although Toshiba's forecast lagged market expectations, there are hopes that the company will revise up its guidance, traders said. "We expect upward profit revisions in memory, medical, and energy and increased confidence in avoiding further project impairment to act as catalysts for the stock," a trader at a foreign brokerage said. On the other hand, Rakuten Inc tumbled 7.1 percent after it reported weak quarterly earnings for the January-March period, hit by an impairment loss linked to its Chinese travel business. Traders said volume may be subdued on renewed worries about Ukraine. Pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine ignored a public call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone a referendum on self-rule, declaring they would go ahead on Sunday with a vote that could lead to war. The broader Topix gained 0.7 percent to 1,167.94, while the new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.7 percent to 10,628.11. (Editing by Chris Gallagher)
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