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Nikkei off 0.5 pct, retreats from 6-month high as financials fall

Ayai Tomisawa
Monday, 18 Nov 2013 | 8:57 PM ET

* Financials take breather after recent strong gains

* Bounce in yen hurts exporters

* Investors cautious on Fed's tapering timeline - analyst

TOKYO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average stepped back from six-month highs on Tuesday morning, with a bounce in the yen denting exporters while financials retreated after their recent earnings-led rally. The Nikkei dropped 0.5 percent to 15,082.35 in mid-morning trade, moving away from 15,273.61 hit on the previous day, the highest since May 23 when it reached a 5-1/2 year high of 15,942.60. The broader Topix shed 0.5 percent to 1,236.06. "Investors have started becoming risk on, but the market has risen too fast so they are staying cautious until there are more cues about Fed's tapering," said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities. Markets continue to watch out for any clues as to when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start unwinding its $85 billion-a-month stimulus programme, although many in the markets now see any move unlikely until March. Financials lost ground after rising on Monday on their recent strong earnings. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group shed 1.7 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group declined 0.9 percent and Mizuho Financial Group slid 0.5 percent. Exporters were weaker after the dollar pulled back against the yen, reflecting expectations the Fed will maintain its easy-money policy for a while longer after dovish comments last week from incoming Fed chief Janet Yellen. Toyota Motor Corp dropped 0.5 percent and Advantest Corp fell 1.7 percent. The yen was up 0.1 percent at 99.925 yen to the dollar , adding to a 0.2 percent rise overnight to end a two-day run of losses. Last week, the yen hit a two-month low of 100.315 yen to the dollar, driven by a risk-on mode in global markets and comments from Finance Minister Taro Aso that Tokyo should retain currency intervention as a policy tool. The Nikkei gained 7.7 percent last week, it's biggest weekly rise in four years. A weaker yen sharpens Japanese exporters' competitiveness overseas and bumps up their dollar earnings when repatriated. The Nikkei has rallied 45 percent this year, driven by the government's expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.