TOKYO, Feb 21 The Nikkei average is expected to open lower on Thursday, after touching a 52-month high the previous day, following a drop in Wall Street stocks and as investors stay cautious before the appointment of the next Bank of Japan governor. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 11,350 and 11,500, after ending up 0.8 percent on Wednesday at 11,468.28, its highest closing level since September 2008. On Wednesday, the Nikkei rose as high as 11,510.52, also the highest level since September 2008. Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 11,415, down 0.2 percent from the close in Osaka of 11,440. "The Nikkei pierced the psychological resistance level of 11,500, but trading volume has stayed low as investors want to stay on the sidelines before major events," said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities. Miura said investors were cautiously awaiting the outcome of a meeting in Washington on Friday at which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to discuss a range of issues including economic and trade matters. On Wednesday, the broader Topix rose 1.1 percent to 973.70 in thin trade, with 2.82 billion shares changing hands, compared with last week's average daily volume of 4.03 billion shares. Miura said the low volume was mainly due to a slowdown in margin trade by retail investors. "Investors are also taking a wait-and-see approach before the government nominates a new BOJ governor next week. Low risk appetite may also cause the market to fall after seeing that the U.S. market eased," Miura said. The government has delayed nominating a governor by a week, fanning talk of friction between the prime minister and the finance minister over who should run the central bank and take aggressive action to revive the economy. U.S. stocks fell the most in three months Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting suggested the central bank may slow or stop buying bonds sooner than expected. > Wall St slides as Fed minutes spark concern > Dollar erases gains versus yen, trades little changed > U.S. bond prices cling to gains after Fed minutes > Gold dives to lowest since July on Fed, hedge fund talk > Oil slumps on fund rumor; Saudi output, Iran talks eyed STOCKS TO WATCH --Japan Airlines Co JAL will cut an additional 4 billion yen in costs in the current financial year through March 31 as it seeks to absorb flight cancellations stemming from the grounding of the Boeing 787, the Nikkei reported. --Toyota Motor Corp Toyota plans to make a record 8.79 million vehicles under the Toyota and Lexus brands in 2013 and 9.5 million in 2014, a member of the Toyota labour union federation said on Wednesday. --Sony Corp Sony is expected to showcase a new PlayStation console on Wednesday in a pre-emptive strike against Microsoft Corp's bid to make its Xbox the world's leading hub for household entertainment. Separately, Sony said on Wednesday that it would sell six percent of shares in its consolidated subsidiary M3 Inc .
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