* Weak U.S. data take toll on exporters
* Automakers hardest hit, led by Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor
* Some traders suspect the market has bottomed out for now
By Joshua Hunt
TOKYO, March 29 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged down on Tuesday morning as weak data from the United States took some of the shine off recent evidence suggesting a reasonably healthy pulse in the world’s biggest economy - Japan’s major export market.
The Nikkei share average declined 0.2 percent to end the morning session at 17,106.54.
The smaller fall in the market was taken by some as a sign that the market may have bottomed out for now.
“The selling that we’re seeing this morning has been pretty tepid,” said Nicholas Smith, a strategist at CLSA.
“I think we’re pretty much done with the serious downward pressure we’ve seen and it would be a fairly dangerous time to be short on the market with so many Japanese companies poised to announce share buybacks.”
U.S. economic data released overnight showed consumer spending barely rose in February and inflation retreated, suggesting the Fed could remain cautious about raising interest rates this year even as the labor market tightens.
The United States is a big market for many of Japan’s globe trotting firms and with growth slowing in China - another huge trading partner - investors are betting on some upside in the world’s no. 1 economy.
Japan’s automakers, which rely heavily on U.S. export sales, were among those hit hard in early trade. Nissan Motor Co Ltd slipped 1.8 percent, while Toyota Motor Corp fell 1 percent and Isuzu Motors Ltd declined 1.9 percent.
Electronics and machinery company Hitachi Ltd fell 1 percent, and electronics components maker Alps Electric Co Ltd shed 2.6 percent.
Furniture store operator Nitori Holdings soared 7.9 percent after the company raised its earnings outlook and its dividend.
Industrial machine maker IHI Corp surged 7 percent after announcing that it expects a special profit of about 18.7 billion yen ($164.67 million) for the year ending March 2016.
The broader Topix fell 0.3 percent to 1,377.94 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.2 percent to 12,453.05.
$1 = 113.5600 yen Reporting by Joshua Hunt; Editing by Shri Navaratnam