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Nikkei near flat after 6-year closing high; exporters sag, shippers gain

Ayai Tomisawa
Thursday, 28 Nov 2013 | 9:02 PM ET

* Nikkei heading for 3rd straight weekly gain

* Nikkei has gained 9.5 pct this month

* Lack of participants may limit profit-taking - analyst

* Shippers outperform on rising Baltic index

TOKYO, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average was nearly flat on Friday morning after hitting an almost six-year closing high the previous day as investors locked in profits from recent gains in exporters, while shippers outperformed on the back of stronger freight charges. The Nikkei was down 0.04 percent at 15,719.38 in midmorning trade after soaring 1.8 percent the previous day. The Nikkei is still within sight of a 5-1/2 year peak of 15,942.60 marked on May 23. For the week, the Nikkei has gained 1.9 percent and is headed for a third straight weekly gain. For the month, the index has gained 9.5 percent. Trading was light, as U.S. financial markets were shut on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and will be open for a half day on Friday. The Topix fell 0.1 percent to 1,260.07. "There are few foreign investors trading today, so profit-taking on recent gainers may also be mild," said Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities. "Drops are likely to be limited." He also said the market is on a rising trend helped by expectations that Japanese exporters will report stronger profits for the year through March and beyond as the yen stays weak against the dollar. A weak yen sharpens exporters' competitiveness overseas and boosts their dollar earnings when repatriated. The dollar bought 102.28 yen, not far from a six-month high of 102.375 set overnight. It is moving ever closer to its 2013 peak of 103.74 reached back in May. On Friday, exporters were weaker on profit-taking, with Panasonic Corp falling 2.2 percent, Toyota Motor Corp dropping 0.6 percent and Nissan Motor Co shedding 0.3 percent. Bucking the trend, shippers outperformed, as the Baltic Dry Index, or freight fees, soared 9.3 percent the previous day. Mitsui OSK Lines rose 1.1 percent and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha added 1.7 percent. Buoyed by the Japanese government's massive fiscal and monetary stimulus, the benchmark Nikkei has risen about 50 percent this year, gunning for its best yearly performance since 1972.