Nikkei eases on profit-taking; Sharp dives as it seeks aid
* Sharp dives to 3-week low * Chip-related shares outperform after Nasdaq rises * Nikkei futures snap a 13-day winning streak * Regional banks lower after CLSA cuts ratings By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, March 3 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average fell in choppy trade on Tuesday as investors took profits from the recent gains, but losses were limited as sentiment was supported by strong Wall Street performances. Sharp Corp tumbled as much as 9.8 percent on news that it is planning to seek aid from its main lenders, as it expects losses to mount this year. A source told Reuters that it is looking to request aid from Mizuho Bank and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in a bid to shore up finances needed to restructure. The Nikkei fell 0.3 percent to 18,775.73 points by mid-morning after bouncing between positive and negative territory in early trade. But it remained near 15-year highs. Meantime, Nikkei futures dropped for the first time in 14 days, implying that there may be profit-taking after the recent rallies. Tech shares such as semiconductor-equipment makers outperformed after the Nasdaq on Monday closed above 5,000 for the first time since the year 2000 dot-com bubble as tech stocks were boosted by deals. "Nasdaq's strength implies strong demand in the semiconductor industry so Japanese chip-related shares are in demand," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. Index-heavy stocks, Kyocera Corp and Tokyo Electron Ltd rose 2.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, and added a hefty 15 points to the Nikkei index. But Sato said that due to some technical signs that the market is overbought, profit-taking is possible in the overall market, while investors await more cues such as U.S. jobs data on Friday. Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp falling 0.6 percent and Honda Motor Co rising 0.4 percent. Some banks languished after their ratings were reduced by a brokerage. Among those were 77 Bank Ltd, which dropped 1.1 percent and Chiba Bank Ltd, which shed 1.2 percent after CLSA cut their ratings to "underperform" from "buy," saying that it urged caution on the sector after the recent rally and adding that some of the share prices were close to the brokerage's targets. The broader Topix was flat at 1,524.76 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 rose 0.1 percent to 13,848.27. (Editing by Kim Coghill)
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