May 22, 2019 / 7:07 AM / a month ago

Nikkei inches up, sentiment still fragile on domestic, external pressure

* Nikkei hobbled as risk sentiment still weak

* Exporters, tech shares pare gains

* Leopalace soars after Reno raises stake

* Suzuki falls on news of India antitrust probe on Maruti Suzuki

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, May 22 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei edged up on Wednesday in an overall cautious market as data showed another drop in the nation’s exports for April, which offset a few positive signs for the economy.

Exporters and technology shares pared early gains and the Nikkei share average ended 0.1% higher at 21,283.37, after trading in a narrow range as sentiment remained fragile with no signs of de-escalation in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Data earlier in the day showed Japan’s exports contracted for a fifth month in April, and though machinery orders unexpectedly rebounded the economic outlook suggested a difficult road ahead.

“The market is still tense so there is a risk of Japanese stocks to further slide,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

“The yen’s weakness is triggering short-covering but the situation hasn’t changed yet.”

The dollar hit a two-week high of 110.675 yen in the previous session, before edging lower at 110.48 at 0625 GMT.

Since the White House added China’s Huawei to a trade blacklist last week, several global companies have suspended business with the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker.

The United States has temporarily eased trade restrictions on Huawei, however, to minimise disruptions for its customers.

“Japan remains a hostage to global macro issues and cannot really move until more clarity out of the U.S.-China trade talks,” said Takeo Kamai, head of execution services at CLSA Securities Japan.

He said investor focus was now on talks between Japan and the United States scheduled for this weekend.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will visit Japan on May 24 to meet Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to accelerate trade talks ahead of a leaders’ summit a few days later, two sources with direct knowledge of the plan said on Monday.

Electric component makers, which tumbled on the previous day, recovered slightly. Murata Manufacturing added 0.3%, Hitachi High-Technologies gained 1.2% and Taiyo Yuden surged 3.2%.

Leopalace 21 soared 5.7% after filings showed that Reno KK raised its stake in the company to 14.13% from 12.56%.

Elsewhere, Suzuki Motor Corp tumbled 5.5% after sources told Reuters that India’s antitrust regulator was looking into allegations that Maruti Suzuki resorted to anti-competitive practices by controlling how its dealers discounted cars. Suzuki Motor is its majority owner.

On the upside, nonferrous metal shares rose, tracking gains in Chinese rare earth-related companies after news that Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth firm in southern China, sparking speculation the sector could be the next front in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Toho Titanium rallied 3.8% and Osaka Titanium Technologies advanced 3.6%.

The broader Topix shed 0.3% to 1,546.21. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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