* Market down for third day as yen gains
* Nikkei supported at Ichimoku cloud top
* Softbank gains on report on U.S. subsidiary
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Japanese shares fell for a third consecutive session on Monday as the yen’s gains and uncertainty about U.S. economic policies prompted profit-taking.
The Nikkei dropped as much as 0.6 percent to 19,115 — its lowest level since Feb. 9 — where it had a pivotal technical support from the top of Ichimoku cloud, which stood at 19,114.
The Nikkei last stood down 0.2 percent at 19,190, having declined 1.7 percent from a six-week high of 19,519 hit a week ago.
“We’ve seen some upgrades in this earnings season. But even taking that into consideration, the market is hardly cheap now,” said Shingo Ide, chief equity strategist at NLI Research Institute.
“Unless the yen weakens a bit more, there are few reasons to buy Japanese shares aggressively,” he added.
The yen has risen to around 113 per dollar from Wednesday’s low of 114.955, as the dollar quickly lost momentum after a relief rally following the meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Although there was no tough talk on trade at the meeting, we are likely to see a comprehensive economic talk between Japan and the United States in April, when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Japan,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
The uncertainty over Trump’s policies on international trade and tax is encouraging investors to take profits when they can.
Japanese institutional investors also have additional incentives to take profits as they eye their financial year end on March 31.
Amid the lack of a clear macro picture, Softbank was the most actively traded stock in the morning, rising as much as 3.3 percent after sources told Reuters that the company is prepared to cede control of Sprint Corp to T-Mobile US Inc.
Softbank’s previous attempt to merge a struggling Sprint with T-Mobile fell through amid opposition from U.S. antitrust regulators.
Bridgestone jumped to a 15-month high after the tyre manufacturer announced on Friday it will buy back up to 6.4 percent of its own stock, or about 50 million shares, and retire 20 million Treasury stocks.
The broader Topix was down 0.2 percent at 1,541.30, with 28 of the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 33 industry subindexes in the red in late morning trade. (Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Sunil Nair)