Nikkei eases, but early losses pared by China data and weak yen
* Nikkei falls 0.3 pct midday, Topix flat
* China's flash HSBC PMI offers positive surprise
* Emerging Asian markets remain a focus - market players
TOKYO, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average sagged on Thursday after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting failed to ease concerns it will begin to taper monetary stimulus soon, leaving Asian emerging markets to grapple with another tumultuous session. But upbeat economic data from China and a weaker yen helped temper some of the negative market sentiment. The benchmark Nikkei slipped 0.3 percent to 13,380.28 by the midday break, while the broader Topix was almost flat at 1,122.24. "The Fed minutes reinforced that tapering could start in September and so we'll see further weakness that we saw early in the week in some of the Asian plays," said Stefan Worrall, director of equity cash sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. "But the yen's (weakness) is providing some support." The dollar last traded at 98.21 yen, pushing further away from a seven-week low of 95.81 yen touched earlier this month. A weaker yen tends to make export-reliant Japan's products more competitive in the global market.
EMERGING MARKET WORRIES LINGER Companies that are heavily exposed to emerging markets led the declines on Thursday, with Suzuki Motor Corp falling 1.5 percent and Hino Motors Ltd slipping 4.1 percent. Emerging markets in the region, India and Indonesia in particular, have had a torrid time in recent weeks on concerns about a turn in Fed policy. The July minutes showed members of the Federal Open Market Committee had different opinions as to when the Fed should start winding down its bond purchases. The overall view, however, was that the minutes did not materially change the market's expectation of a September tapering. In overnight trading, Wall Street stocks sold off, the U.S. dollar surged and borrowing costs rose globally, a bad cocktail for emerging markets that have come to rely on cheap dollars to underpin domestic demand and fund current account shortfalls. On the brighter side, however, activity in China's vast manufacturing sector hit a four-month high in August as new orders rebounded, a preliminary private survey showed on Thursday, reinforcing signs of stabilisation in the world's second-largest economy. "China's PMI was a positive surprise. The data definitely provided a major tailwind for Japanese and other Asian stocks," said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities. China is Japan's second biggest export market. Other notable movers include Tokyo Electric Power Co , which shed 4.5 percent. It was the most-traded stock levels of radiation leaking from a storage tank continued to spook investors. Still, the benchmark Nikkei is up 29 percent this year, spurred by the Japanese government's fiscal expansionary policy and the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary stimulus.