September 18, 2019 / 2:16 AM / a month ago

Nikkei little changed, hover near 4-mth highs; c.bank meetings eyed

TOKYO, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average was little changed but continued to hover near its four-month high on Wednesday, with investors awaiting fresh catalysts ahead of key central bank meetings in the United States and Japan.

The benchmark Nikkei average stood virtually flat at 22,009.19 in mid-morning trade, not far from its four-month peak of 22,041.08 touched previous day, while the broader Topix dropped 0.4% to 1,608.61.

Investors broadly remained on the sidelines ahead of key policy decisions by the U.S. Federal Reserve due later Wednesday and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) on Thursday. The Fed is expected to cut interest rates, but while a 25-basis point cut is seen as near-certain, investors will look to the statement and economic projections from Fed policy makers, given that there have been signs recently of deep disagreements among them.

A Reuters poll pointed toward the Bank of Japan keeping its policy on hold. However, 28 of 41 economists expect it will ease later this year and 13 believe it may surprise by taking action at the Thursday meeting.

Oil and gas-related companies, which led gains the previous day, dropped back after crude prices cooled on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia said the kingdom will fully restore its oil supply by the end of month following attacks on its oil facilities.

Japan’s biggest oil and gas developer Inpex Corp shed 5.1% and global engineering company JGC Corp fell 2.1%, while the oil and coal products sector dropped 3.7%.

On the flip side, airlines, one of the major beneficiaries of lower oil prices, rose 0.6% to become the best performing subsector index, with ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines adding 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively.

Elsewhere, Sony Corp declined 2.3% after the electronics company rejected a call by Daniel Loeb’s activist hedge fund Third Point LLC to spin-off its chips business, saying that the business is “a crucial growth driver.”

Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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