July 12, 2019 / 3:00 AM / 8 days ago

Nikkei flat; Yaskawa's weak earnings drag on machinery stocks

* Yaskawa’s earnings pull down Fanuc, Keyence

* Nikkei poised to post first weekly fall in six weeks

* Lawson jumps on strong quarterly results

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, July 12 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei was flat on Friday morning with investors shifting their focus to corporate earning as weak profits from some firms such as Yaskawa Electric dragged on machinery stocks.

The Nikkei share average was flat at 21,643.07 in choppy trade. For the week, it has fallen 0.5% and is poised to post the first weekly drop in six weeks.

As Japanese markets will be closed for a holiday on Monday, investors are refraining from taking large positions, analysts said.

They said that the market will likely focus on quarterly earnings results from U.S. and Japanese companies next week.

On Thursday, Yaskawa Electric, a motion control equipment maker with exposure in China, kicked off the earnings season and reported a 58% fall in its operating profit for the March-May quarter. That caused its stock price to fall around 5% on Friday. Yaskawa’s results are monitored closely by investors as the firm is seen as an indicator of Chinese demand.

“As the market has already priced in a U.S. rate cut this month and there are few other major macro events in the near future, the next focus is whether there are further U.S. rate cuts for the rest of the year,” said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Takahashi said that investors are keen for clues on business sentiment and will look to company earnings for direction.

Yaskawa’s weak results took a toll on other machinery stocks. Fanuc Corp dropped 2.4%, Keyence Corp shed 1.5% and SMC Corp plunged 1.9%.

Convenience store Lawson Inc jumped more than 5% after its first-quarter operating profit rose 12.4%, thanks to strong sales from an upscale supermarket chain Seijo Ishii Co that Lawson acquired in the past.

The broader Topix shed 0.2% to 1,576.23. Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 1,163 to 876. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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