Nikkei steady as China's stimulus underpins; focus on earnings
* JFE Holdings, Mazda among firms announcing earnings this week * Panasonic up after report saying net profit likely jumped 70 pct By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, April 20 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up in a choppy Monday morning, pulling back up from a two-week low as China's latest stimulus step offset weakness in U.S. and European shares. The Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent to 19,678.59 in mid-morning trade after dropping to as low as 19,474.23, the weakest level since April 6. "There's no need for markets to worry too much because of the weakness in global stocks on Friday," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. He said China's latest step to shore up its economy underpinned Japanese stocks. China's central bank on Sunday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, the second industry-wide cut in two months, adding more liquidity to the world's second-biggest economy to help spur bank lending and combat slowing growth. That news came after global markets were roiled when Chinese regulators said on Friday that they would allow fund managers to lend shares for short-selling, and would also expand the number of stocks investors can short sell, in a bid to raise the supply of securities in the market. For this week, investors are focused on companies' full-year forecasts when they release earnings results for the year ended March. Exporters were weaker, with Toyota Motor Corp falling 0.6 percent and Honda Motor Co dropping 0.7 percent. Shares in the pharmaceutical sector rose after falling 1.8 percent last week. Eisai Co gained 2.0 percent and Shionogi & Co added 1.0 percent. Panasonic Corp rose 1.9 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that its net profit likely soared 70 percent to about 200 billion yen. Companies including JFE Holdings and Mazda Motor Corp are scheduled to release their earnings this week. The broader Topix dropped 0.2 percent to 1,585.29, and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 0.2 percent to 14,375.57. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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