UPDATE 1-Nissan holds annual profit forecast steady, Q3 down 35 pct
YOKOHAMA, Japan, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co left its annual net profit forecast unchanged at 320 billion yen ($3.43 billion), bucking the trend among Japanese carmakers for a more optimistic outlook as a result of the yen's depreciation.
Japan's second biggest carmaker by sales reported on Friday a 35 percent year-on-year drop in third quarter net profit to 54.1 billion yen, citing weak demand in Europe, China and the United States.
The results, however, still came in slightly above the market expectation of 51.8 billion yen, according to seven analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"Nissan's performance in the third quarter did not meet our expectations," Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.
"This was primarily the result of difficult operating conditions in Europe for the entire auto industry, in China for Japanese automakers, and in the U.S. for Nissan," he said.
Nissan sold 4.94 million vehicles in calendar year 2012 globally, up 5.8 percent from 2011, but sales in China, its biggest market, fell 31.3 percent on average in October-December from a year ago after anti-Japan protests broke out in September.
In the United States, though its redesigned Altima sedan is selling well, Nissan is struggling to sell its older models such as the Rogue crossover SUV.
Shares in Nissan have risen about 45 percent since mid-November on hopes the weakening yen will boost its bottom line, far ahead of the 30 percent rise in Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index over the same period.
Rivals Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co Ltd and Mazda Motor Corp have also posted big gains.
The Japanese currency has lost around 20 percent of its value versus the dollar since October, which helps exporters because they can convert profits made overseas back into yen at a more favourable rate. ($1 = 93.2100 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Jeremy Laurence)