Nikkei falls for 7th day, longest losing run in 7 months
* Nikkei slips 0.2 pct, Topix ends flat * Hitachi Cable jumps 18.7 pct, to merge with Hitachi Metals By Dominic Lau TOKYO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average fell for a seventh straight session on Tuesday, its longest losing streak in seven months, on fears that the U.S. fiscal problem may tip the world's largest economy into recession. Adding to the concerns, the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund were at odds over a longer-term plan to reduce Greece's debt, preventing disbursement of immediate aid to Athens. Exporters, whose fortunes are largely tied to the health of the global economy, suffered, with Toshiba Corp, Nikon Corp, Canon Inc and construction machinery maker Komatsu Ltd down between 0.5 and 2.2 percent. A stronger yen also added to the pressure on exporters, with the Japanese currency trading at 79.28 to the dollar, not far from a three-week high of 79.07 hit on Friday. The yen also touched a five-week high 100.42 yen to the euro on Tuesday. The Nikkei slipped 0.2 percent to 8,661.05 points, hitting a four-week closing low for the third day in a row. It has lost 4.3 percent during its longest daily losing streak since April. The benchmark is still up 2.4 percent so far this year but lags behind a 9.7 percent rise in the U.S. S&P 500 and a 10.2 percent gain in the pan-European STOXX Europe 600. Gains in a number of machinery makers on short-covering and a near 6 percent jump in Olympus Corp after it reported first-half earnings offered some support to the market. A trader at a foreign bank said investors remained focused on the negative impact of the so-called 'fiscal cliff' in the United States, a series of spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect in the new year. "Rising taxes in principle is a drag on growth ... People here still are looking at the negatives more than the positives. It's very hard to get a positive vibe into the market," he said. "We are again moving away from the 80 (yen to the dollar) handle. Again, it's very negative for exporters ... a lot of profit taking in exporters." The trader added company quarterly earnings had also been weak, giving investors few reason to take any big positions. About 58 of the 145 Nikkei companies that have so far reported quarterly earnings undershot market expectations, data from Thomson Reuters StarMine showed. That compared with 54 percent in the previous quarter. WEAK EARNINGS SEASON Many companies have also cut their earnings outlooks amid sluggish global growth. Among them were general contractor Shimizu Corp, which shed 5.4 percent on Tuesday. Engineering firm JGC Corp lost 2.3 percent after it reported its first-half earnings, which a dealer described as "light". But Olympus climbed as its key endoscope business rebounded in North America in September and its full-year earnings cut was in line with market expectations. The broader Topix was flat at 722.56 in relatively light trade, with 1.5 billion shares changing hands, down from last week's average of 1.59 billion but up from a 10-week low of 1.26 billion shares reached on Monday. "There are signs that the U.S. economy is recovering, and if upcoming U.S. data gives hope to the market we may see more rises as the underlying worries are whether the U.S. economy is recovering or not," said Takashi Ito, equity market strategist at Nomura Securities. Hitachi Cable Ltd was also in demand, surging 18.7 percent to a near three-month closing high after the company, which the Nikkei newspaper said is bracing for the fifth consecutive year of net losses, and Hitachi Metals Ltd said they will merge in April. Hitachi Metals shed 8.2 percent, while Hitachi Ltd, the parent of the both Hitachi Cable and Hitachi Metals, added 0.5 percent.
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