TOKYO, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks were flat in midmorning trade as nervous investors awaited a raft of fresh data on China's economy, due to be released before the end of the morning session.
The Nikkei share average was flat at 16,960.22 in midmorning trade, just ahead of the scheduled release of China's GDP figures and fresh data on its industrial output and retail sales.
"The market's recent nervousness was factoring in a lot of uncertainty over China's GDP," said Gavin Parry, managing director at Parry International Trading.
"So a weak number should be somewhat factored in while a strong figure could end up being a catalyst for better market sentiment."
Nintendo Co Ltd shares jumped 5.9 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised the video game company's rating to 'buy' from 'neutral.'
The pharmaceutical sector gained 0.5 percent as risk-averse investors bought into defensive shares sensitive to domestic demand.
China's fresh economic data promises to be the focus for the day, but market players said investors remain concerned over the recent rout on Wall Street.
"Japanese equity continues to look like the best of a bad bunch right now but the real elephant in the room is the end of the 6 year bull market in the U.S. and the stifling amount of debt on the books of governments the world over," said Martin King, co-managing director at Tyton Capital Advisors.
"Those close to retirement should probably be aiming their cash at their mattress right now."
The broader Topix edged down 0.1 percent to 1,385.95 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.2 percent to 12,479.38.
Reporting by Joshua Hunt; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore