Nikkei flat as poor machinery data offsets Fed optimism
* Japanese machinery figures curb risk appetite * But expectations of global economic recovery support sentiment * Benesse dives to 2-1/2-month low after data leak By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, July 10 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was flat on Thursday in choppy trade as worse-than-expected machinery data soured sentiment after minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve suggested the end of its monetary stimulus was a sign of economic strength. Japanese machinery orders posted their worst monthly fall on record in May, defying expectations of a bounce and casting doubt on hopes that capital spending was picking up and could drive economic recovery. The 19.5 percent month-on-month fall in core orders in May from the previous month compared with a median estimate of a 0.7 percent gain in a Reuters poll of economists. The Nikkei was flat at 15,305.46 in mid-morning trade after going back and forth between positive and negative territory. It had dropped 0.1 percent to 15,302.65 on Wednesday, its lowest closing level since June 30. Market players said the weak machinery orders curbed risk appetite and there were doubts now about the April-June forecast. "There had been optimism that companies' capital spending was recovering, but it looks like we need to wait a few more months to say that investment is actually rising," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, an analyst at Mizuho Securities. "Now it seems difficult to achieve the April-June forecast." Companies surveyed by the Cabinet Office forecast in May that core orders would rise 0.4 percent in April-June from the previous quarter, which would mark the fifth straight quarter of gains. But analysts also said there may not be a big sell-off in the market because of expectations of a global economic recovery. On Wednesday, Wall Street gained as the Fed's minutes confirmed that its monthly bond purchases would probably end in October and that it was near agreement on a plan to manage interest rates in the future. Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp falling 0.5 percent, Sony Corp rising 0.1 percent and Canon Inc shedding 0.8 percent. Sharply underperforming the market was education services provider Benesse Holdings, which dived 6.4 percent to a 2-1/2-month low and was the eighth most traded stock by turnover after it said a database on millions of customers has been leaked. The broader Topix fell 0.3 percent to 1,266.80, and the new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 dropped 0.3 percent to 11,516.52. (Editing by Alan Raybould)
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