April 4, 2016 / 2:37 AM / 2 years ago

Concerns over firm yen keep Nikkei in check, automakers skid

* Nikkei hovers 1-month lows

* Worries about stronger yen linger

* Defensive stocks attract buying

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, April 4 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average struggled on Monday as the dollar sagged against the yen despite a stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs report, while automakers skidded after posting disappointing sales.

The dollar brushed 111.56 yen on Monday, its lowest since March 22, after Friday’s firm U.S. jobs report failed to shift a broadly held view that the Federal Reserve will remain cautious on raising interest rates this year.

The Nikkei was flat at 16,164.95 points by midmorning after falling to as low as 16,029.50 earlier, the lowest since March 1. The benchmark index flitted in and out of positive territory.

Market participants said that last week’s Bank Of Japan’s sour corporate sentiment survey result has also kept investors on edge. A stronger yen is the major concern among investors before companies whose fiscal years ended in March announce their results and forecasts in May, they added.

“Recent foreign exchange levels are increasingly making investors nervous these days,” said Hikaru Sato, senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.

“Trading will likely be closely linked to dollar-yen levels for the time being.”

Automakers lost ground, with Toyota Motor Corp falling 2.5 percent and Honda Motor Co shedding 1.3 percent. Toyota’s U.S. sales fell in March while Honda’s grew less than markets had expected.

The broader Topix rose 0.5 percent to 1,307.32, supported by buying in such defensive stocks such as drugmakers.

Daiichi Sankyo Co soared 4.3 percent after Daiwa Securities raised its rating to ‘3’ from ‘4’, while Astellas Pharma Inc gained 1.2 percent and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co added 1.7 percent.

Other domestic-demand sensitive stocks also gained ground. Ajinomoto Co soared 3.9 percent and Kikkoman Corp added 1.4 percent.

The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 0.6 percent to 11,803.86.

Editing by Kim Coghill

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