Wires

Nikkei ends down, but not far from near three-decade highs in dollar terms

Hideyuki Sano

* Market down on profit-taking ahead of holidays

* Nikkei ends 2019 up 18.2%, Topix gains 15.2%

* Dollar-converted Nikkei at 216.8, near 28-year peak

* Geopolitical tensions in northeast Asia, Middle East weigh

TOKYO, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks ended slightly lower on the last trading day of the year as investors booked profits ahead of New Year holidays, although the Nikkei average held near three-decade highs in dollar terms.

The Nikkei share average fell 0.76% to 23,656.62 on Monday, further from a 14-month peak of 24,091 hit about two weeks ago. The broader Topix lost 0.68% to 1,721.36.

The Nikkei in dollar terms, a more important gauge for foreign investors, stood at 216.80, near a peak of around 220 hit this month and not far from a 28-year high hit in 2018.

"There are two possibilities here. We could see fresh buying after a break of the previous high. Or investors could sell into rally," said Shuji Hosoi, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

"At the moment, it is too early to say which direction the market is going."

As Japanese financial markets will be closed from Tuesday through Friday to reopen on Monday, Jan. 6, many market players were eager to close their positions for now.

On the year, the Nikkei was up 18.2% after a 12% drop in 2018, while the Topix was 15.2% higher after shedding nearly 18% in 2018.

A broad range of shares fell, with all but one of the Tokyo Stock Exchange's 33 industry subindexes in the negative territory.

Some said market sentiment was also hurt by rising political tensions in North East Asia and violence in the Middle East.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a ruling party meeting, called for "positive and offensive measures" to ensure security ahead of a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearisation talks with the United States.

The U.S. military carried out air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday against Iran-backed militia group, while Turkey plans to send troops to support Libya's government that has been struggling to fend off a months-long offensive by General Khalifa Haftar's forces in eastern Libya.

Many technology shares took the brunt of profit-taking with Fanuc down 1.8%, Shin-etsu Chemical shedding 1.3% and Honda Motor losing 1.2%.

Among others, Adastria dropped 6.8% after the casual clothing shop operator's quarterly earnings and profit guidance for the year ending in February fell short of market expectations.

Parco rose 10% to near the tender price offered by J. Front Retailing, which announced a plan to wholly own the company last week.

Leopalace21 climbed 0.9% after activist investors requested the scandal-tainted apartment builder sack all of its 10 board members. (Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Himani Sarkar)