Nikkei eases on soft Q2 GDP; uncertainty looms over tax hike
* Bearish sentiment likely to prevail near term - analysts
* Yes moves away from 7-week high
TOKYO, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The Nikkei share average ended the Monday morning session flat after Japan's economy grew more slowly than expected in the last quarter, which may add to calls to delay a planned sales tax hike to tackle massive government debt. The benchmark Nikkei eased 0.1 percent to 13,600.89 and the broader Topix dropped 0.1 percent to 1,139.96 in midmorning trade. Japan's economy grew an annualised 2.6 percent in April-June, a third straight quarter of expansion but well below the market consensus of 3.6 percent, preliminary official data showed on Monday morning. "It's definitely a big blow to the stock market. Investors were hoping for a 3 percent growth at least, even if it's below consensus," said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities. "Now the question is when and what level the market will stop falling." "The GDP data posed an additional challenge to the Abe administration," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of global equities and commodity derivatives at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. "Looking closer, the data shows corporate capital spending fell 0.1 percent. It means that if private spending suffers from the planned sales tax hike, which I think is inevitable, further economic growth will be difficult." Capital expenditure unexpectedly fell in the last quarter, a sign companies are yet to boost spending despite the feel-good mood generated by Abe's reflationary policies. Backing the overall trend, Bridgestone Corp jumped 4.6 percent after the tyre maker raised its full-year operating profit forecast, citing a weaker yen, helping the rubber products subindex become the best-performing sector on Topix. The yen was last traded at 96.46 yen against the dollar, moving away from a seven-week high of 95.81 yen touched last Thursday. A weak yen makes exports more competitive and profitable. The Japanese currency is down 11 percent versus the dollar for the year reflecting the Bank of Japan's radical monetary stimulus launched in April to end years of stubborn deflation and foster growth. The benchmark Nikkei is up 31 percent this year.