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Nikkei falls on pause in weak-yen trend, Ukraine caution; Panasonic jumps

Ayai Tomisawa
Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 | 9:09 PM ET

* Panasonic soars, dividend tops market expectations

* Investors eye impact of Ukraine tensions on global markets

TOKYO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average extended losses into a second day on Thursday, moving further away from a 3-1/2-week high hit earlier this week, as the weakening of the yen took a pause and as heightened tensions in Ukraine soured sentiment. But Panasonic Corp again was a standout performer, hitting a four-week high after its full-year dividend plan beat market expectations, a day after it soared on a report that the firm may invest in a U.S. car battery plant. The Nikkei was down 0.3 percent at 14,933.80 in midmorning trade after shedding 0.5 percent the previous day. It further moved away from 15,094.54 hit on Tuesday, the highest intraday level since Jan. 31. Index heavyweights lost ground, with SoftBank Corp falling 0.8 percent and Fast Retailing Co dropping 1.4 percent. Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp and Sony Corp both inching up 0.2 percent, while Nikon Corp fell 1.1 percent. The dollar edged up to 102.40 yen but remained well within the previous session's trading range. Analysts said the market may stay lacklustre as investors were cautious against escalating tensions in Ukraine, which triggered a selloff in risk assets in emerging markets. "We need to keep an eye on whether it will not trigger further selling in assets in the neighbouring countries as the global market can get affected indirectly," said Shun Maruyama, chief Japan equity strategist at BNP Paribas. Investors were also awaiting U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments at the Senate Banking Committee in semiannual testimony about monetary policy, which kept a check on activity. Panasonic soared 3 percent to a four-week peak of 1,297 yen after the company said it would pay a year-end dividend of 8 yen per share, bringing its full-year payout to 13 yen. That topped the market consensus for a 10 yen annual dividend. The stock had risen 5.3 percent on Wednesday. A fund manager at a Japanese asset management firm said the news was a positive surprise, because Panasonic had paid an annual dividend of 10 yen for the three years up to March 2012 before not paying any dividends last fiscal year. The broader Topix index slipped 0.4 percent to 1,220.20. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index launched this year comprising firms with high return on equity and strong corporate governance, dropped 0.5 percent to 11,027.69.

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