* Nikkei still heading for best January performance since 1998 * Lender SMFG jumps after 9-mth earnings top full-yr f'cast * Nintendo sags after forecasting 2nd year of loss * Two-thirds of Nikkei firms reporting earnings so far miss market f'cast By Dominic Lau TOKYO, Jan 31 Japan's Nikkei average dipped on Thursday, with investors booking profits after it had risen sharply in the previous session to end above 11,000 for the first time in 33 months. But gains in camera and printer maker Canon Inc and lender Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, after their quarterly results, capped losses. The Nikkei eased 0.2 percent to 11,093.94, but is still up 6.7 percent so far this month, on track for its best January performance since 1998, after rallying 22.9 percent in 2012. "It's too early to take profit," a trader at a foreign bank said. "People should look for names which are still undervalued, still haven't moved (in line with the rally) and could outperform." 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. Index heavyweight Canon advanced 0.9 percent on Thursday after it forecast a 26.6 rise in operating profit this year as it cuts costs and gets a boost to revenues from a weakening yen. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group climbed 4 percent after its ninth-month earnings handily beat its operating profit forecast for the full-year ending March. Rivals Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group both gained 2.8 percent. 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. Chip-making equipment maker Advantest Corp was among those that reporting weaker-than-expected earnings this quarter. The stock lost 3.3 percent after it announced its third-quarter earnings and cut its full-year operating profit forecast after the market close on Wednesday. Video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd dropped 4.2 percent after it said it would post an operating loss for a second straight year as sales of the Wii U, the successor to its Wii console, faltered. The broader Topix index added 0.3 percent to 937.29. The softer yen, which is expected to boost exporters' earnings, has boosted the appeal of Japanese equities, with foreign investors remaining net buyers last week for an 11th consecutive week. They bought a net 248.6 billion yen ($2.73 billion) worth of equities in the week through Jan. 26, data from the Ministry of Finance showed. Driven by the recent rally, Japanese equities are slightly more expensive than their U.S. peers. The Topix carries a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of 13.4, versus the U.S. S&P 500's 13.3 and the pan-European STOXX Europe 60's 11.9, data from Thomson Reuters Datastream showed.
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