* Market nervous before ettlement in futures contracts on Friday - traders
* Futures trade may sway cash market until Friday - traders
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average fell to its lowest in more than three weeks on Wednesday morning after U.S. stocks dropped on concerns over sliding oil prices, offsetting Japan’s better-than-expected machinery orders data.
The Nikkei dropped 1.1 percent to 19,278.20 after hitting as low as 19,261.16 earlier, the lowest since November 16.
Although crude prices edged up during Asian trade after dipping below $37 per barrel overnight, global investors remain risk-averse, traders said.
They also said that lower oil prices could serve as a tailwind to Japan for lower energy prices, but the Japanese market could suffer a ripple effect as long as investors avoid risky assets.
Traders also noted that the market may see volatility ahead of Friday’s settlement in Nikkei futures and option contracts.
“Those who had bought Nikkei futures on expectations that the index will rise on ECB’s easing are looking for the right timing to sell,” said Michiro Naito, executive director of equity derivatives and quantitative strategies at JPMorgan, referring to last week’s event when the European Central Bank dashed expectations for a major burst of stimulus.
He said that after data on Tuesday showed that Japan’s economy dodged recession in the third quarter, the market sees a slimmer chance of the Bank of Japan easing policy in the near term.
“The only catalyst is the Fed’s rate hike, but we think even that could be negative for the market given concerns about the health of the global economy while weak oil prices remain as a concern,” Naito said. “Anything could trigger selling now because investors are nervous before Friday’s settlement.”
The pharmaceutical, insurance and iron & steel sectors underperformed. Takeda Pharmaceutical dropped 1.5 percent, Dai-ichi Life Insurance tumbled 3.5 percent and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal shed 1.4 percent.
Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp rising 1.0 percent, Nissan Motor Co adding 0.1 percent and Panasonic Corp falling 2.1 percent.
Japan’s core machinery orders unexpectedly jumped in October by the most since March 2014, a strong resumption of investment.
The broader Topix dropped 0.9 percent to 1,554.69 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 1.0 percent to 13,987.45. (Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Eric Meijer)