Nikkei poised to snap 3-day winning streak; oil and brokerage stocks gain
* Energy-related and brokerage shares outperform * Kao tumbles as Q1 earnings slump * Free trade pact in focus next week By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, April 24 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average looked poised to snap a three-day winning streak on Friday as investors took profits, although energy-related shares outperformed on a rise in crude oil prices and brokers were in favour on strong earnings prospects. Tokyo stocks had climbed over the last three days in a continuation of strong gains for the year, boosted by expectations of higher shareholder returns and an influx of money from public pension funds. "Since the index has risen too fast, a short-term correction is likely," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. "There are few catalysts to lift stocks further now." The Nikkei 225 benchmark index was 0.7 percent lower at 20,039.23 in midmorning trade. It has gained 2 percent so far for the week and 15 percent for the year to date. Kao Corp fell 3.3 percent after first-quarter operating profit tumbled some 40 percent, with the detergent and cosmetics maker calling the slump a reaction to robust earnings in the year-earlier period when revenue boomed ahead of a sales tax hike. Other notable gainers included Nomura Holdings which rose 1.9 percent and Daiwa Securities Group which added 0.7 percent. The Nikkei's rise to above 20,000 this month and its ability to maintain that level has investors optimistic about their earnings prospects, market participants say. Inpex Corp rose 1.5 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration gained 1.3 percent after crude oil prices hit 2015 highs as Saudi Arabia and its allies maintained a bombing blitz in Yemen that heightened concerns about the security of Middle East oil supplies. But airline shares, which are beneficiaries of weak oil prices, were sold. ANA Holdings shed 0.8 percent and Japan Airlines declined 3.1 percent. Next week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet at a summit on April 28 and markets are focused on whether there will be progress in negotiations for a free trade pact. Earlier this week, Japan's top trade negotiator sounded an optimistic note that he could reach a deal with the United States that is essential to creating a free trade pact covering 12 countries. The broader Topix dropped 0.4 percent to 1,618.09 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.5 percent to 14,675.47. (Editing by Edwina Gibbs)
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