Nikkei flat as investors await Japan GDP data; Takata gains
* Investors take a breather from outsized gains in previous two sessions * Third quarter GDP figures due Monday in focus * Takata rises on air bag chemical modification announcement By Thomas Wilson TOKYO, Nov 13(Reuters) - Japanese stocks were little changed on Thursday, holding near 7-year highs as investors took a pause from intense buying and Wall Street slipped from record highs. The Nikkei benchmark was up 0.1 percent at 17,208.99 points at 0132 GMT. After big gains in the previous two sessions on expectations Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to delay a second rise in the sales tax in an attempt to keep Japan's sluggish economy recovery on track, investors stepped back to assess the wider economic picture. "I think the mood in the market is that now we just have to wait until Nov 17," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities, referring to Monday's release of third-quarter GDP figures, which could influence Abe's decision. Japan's economy likely expanded in the July-September period, after a sales tax hike in April sent the economy into its biggest slump since the global financial crisis in the second quarter. But the rebound is likely to be far more muted than policymakers had hoped for. Amid growing concern over its likely negative impact on domestic consumption, Japanese firms overwhelmingly support a delay to the second tax increase, slated for next October. A Reuters survey found that almost three quarters of firms think the economy is too weak to bear the increase. [ID: nL3N0T06QV]. Investors did receive a welcome boost from better-than-expected data on machinery orders. The figures suggested that firms are gradually increasing capital investment, widely seen as significant in securing a durable recovery. [ID: nL3N0T289Y] "It does show that Japan's firms are using money, which is positive," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analayst at Securities Japan, Inc. Market heavyweight Softbank advanced 2.1 percent, boosted by expectations of a delay to the sales tax hike. Outperforming the market was Takata Corp, which soared 6.7 percent as the troubled air bag maker said it had modified the composition of an propellant containing a volatile chemical that's been at the centre of a recall of millions of cars worldwide. The broader Topix was flat at 1,376.61, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 was down 0.1 percent at 12,573.04. Also in focus was data on the Chinese economy due at 0530 GMT which is expected to show a further slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.. (Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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