TOKYO, Jan 31 Japan's Nikkei share average is expected to open lower on Thursday with investors likely to book profits after the index rose sharply to end above 11,000 for the first time in 33 months in the previous session. The Nikkei is likely to trade between 10,950 and 11,200, strategists said, while Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 11,080 on Wednesday, down 0.2 percent from the Osaka close of 11,100. "The Nikkei is at a very high level. I think we will see some profit-taking in today's market," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc. But any selling is likely to be limited as bullish sentiment in the Japanese market remains intact, Hiroki added. The Nikkei is up 6.9 percent this month, on track for its best January performance since 1998, after rallying 22.9 percent in 2012. Most of the gains last year came in the final six weeks, as the yen weakened after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the central bank to ease policy more aggressively in his election campaign. U.S. stocks slipped after the Federal Reserve said in its latest statement that economic growth had stalled but indicated the pullback was likely temporary. The statement followed data that showed the U.S. economy had unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter. The Nikkei jumped 2.3 percent to 11,113.95 on Wednesday, while the broader Topix index climbed 1.5 percent to 934.67. Despite the weaker yen, companies have so far reported lacklustre earnings for the October-December quarter. Of the 26 Nikkei companies that have announced quarterly results so far, nearly two-thirds have missed market expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. That compared with 56 percent in the previous three months. Toshiba Corp, Softbank Corp, Honda Motor Co, TDK Corp and steelmaker JFE Holdings are to report quarterly earnings later in the day. > Wall St ends lower after Fed statement > U.S. dollar at 14-low vs euro, Fed keeps easy policy > Treasuries little changed as Fed sees moderate growth > Gold rises on surprise drop in U.S. growth, Fed > Oil rises as economic optimism overshadows weak US data STOCKS TO WATCH --CANON INC Canon expects a 26.6 percent rise in operating profit this year as it cuts costs and gets a boost to revenues from a weakening yen, although the rise fell short of analysts' expectations. --NINTENDO Nintendo Co Ltd, the world's leading gaming company by machines sold, said it would post an operating loss for a second straight year as the sales of its Wii U, successor to the 100-million selling Wii, faltered. --TOYOTA MOTOR CORP Toyota will recall nearly 1.3 million cars globally for two separate defects, including 752,000 Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles in the United States to fix airbags that could be deployed inadvertently, the automaker said on Wednesday. --SUMITOMO MITSUI FINANCIAL GROUP Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group kept its full-year profit forecast unchanged even after Japan's No.3 lender by assets posted nine-month earnings that had already beaten the estimate, underscoring the bank's cautious economic outlook. --MAZDA MOTOR CORP Mazda said on Wednesday it would spend about 26 billion yen ($286.8 million) to build a transmission factory in Thailand.
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