Nikkei seen easing from 4-year high on profit-taking
TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average is expected to edge lower on Thursday as investors take profits after the index jumped to a four-year high, while caution ahead of a central bank policy meeting in Europe may curb risk appetite. Market strategists said the Japanese market is likely to rise in the mid-to-long term on hopes for aggressive monetary easing by the central bank. But a correction may be in sight after recent sharp gains, while investors are expected to take a wait-and-see approach on Europe where European Central Bank policymakers are due to meet Thursday. "Hopes for 'Abenomics' are supporting the mood, but investors are also sensitive to the currency moves, so right now, even small uncertainty on Europe can be a reason to pull back," said Hiroichi Nishi, an assistant general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities. Analysts said that the Nikkei average was likely to trade between 11,300 and 11,500 on Thursday after surging 3.8 percent to close at 11,463.75 on Wednesday, its highest since October 2008. Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa on Tuesday said he would step down, together with his two deputies, three weeks before the end of his five-year term in April. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put the central bank under relentless pressure to do more to pull the economy out of the doldrums. He has made it clear that he wants a governor who will be bolder in loosening monetary policy. The yen, which fell to a 33-month low of 94.08 to the dollar on Wednesday, last traded at 93.60. Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 11,410, down from the close in Osaka of 11,430.
> Wall Street ends flat as investors pull back
> Euro slumps vs dollar, yen as ECB policy meeting eyed
> Bond prices up as euro zone tensions rattle investors
> Gold quietly higher; players eye ECB meeting, equities
> Brent rises, U.S. crude dips on inventory build STOCKS TO WATCH
--GS Yuasa Corp Boeing Co is working on a series of battery design changes designed to minimize fire risks on its grounded 787 passenger jet and get the plane flying again as soon as March, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. GS Yuasa is the battery maker for the Dreamliners.
--Nissan Motor Co Nissan's U.S. arm is preparing to expand its lineup of full-size pickup trucks as it replaces the aged Titan, which has not been significantly refreshed since it was introduced in 2003, the company said on Wednesday.
--Fujitsu Ltd and Panasonic Corp Fujitsu and Panasonic will merge their chip units in the next fiscal year, sources said, in the latest example of Japanese firms combining struggling units to compete with the likes of South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd..
Separately, Panasonic has sold two of its office buildings in central Tokyo to raise around $100 million as the company tries to improve its balance sheet by selling non-core assets, sources with direct knowledge of the transactions have told Reuters.
--Honda Motor Co The Thai unit of Honda Motor said on Wednesday it would invest more than 20 billion baht ($673 million) to build a new assembly plant and expand an existing factory to tap strong local demand and boost exports.
--Mazda Motor Corp and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd
Mazda and Fuji Heavy are best placed among Japanese carmakers to benefit from the weakening yen, raising their earnings forecasts as exported goods bring in more cash.
--Tokyo Electric Power Co Tepco, Japan's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer, has secured its first supplies of the fuel based on prices at the Henry Hub delivery point in the United States, part of a shift in Asia away from oil-linked pricing.