Nikkei flat as investors avoid risk on Gaza worries
* Ukraine tension eases but Gaza worries keep investors risk averse - analysts * FamilyMart falls after saying it stopped sales of expired chicken products By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, July 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was flat on Wednesday morning as investors avoided risk due to geopolitical concerns in the Gaza Strip, which offset upbeat sentiment from gains in U.S. and European markets overnight. The Nikkei was at 15,344.05 in midmorning trade after rising 0.8 percent to 15,343.28 on Tuesday. Market analysts said worries about fallout from the Ukraine conflict had eased after pro-Russian rebels agreed to hand over the black boxes from the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down last week near the Ukraine-Russia border. The Malaysian government also negotiated the release of the remains of nearly 300 victims. The market is now focused on the Middle East as Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip. "We remain worried about Gaza. With a lack of positive catalysts in the market, such bad news can dominate the mood," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. "We cannot underestimate the impact from turmoil in Gaza because it's linked to oil prices and other commodity prices in the mid-term." On Wednesday, bellwether exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp rising 0.3 percent, Honda Motor Co shedding 0.9 percent and Sony Corp gaining 1.0 percent. The dollar shed 0.06 percent to trade at 101.39 yen. FamilyMart Co fell 1.5 percent after the convenience store operator said it had stopped sales of chicken products imported from a Shanghai supplier accused of selling outdated chicken meat. The broader Topix was flat at 1,273.57, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 was also flat at 11,593.11. (Editing by Stephen Coates)
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