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Japan Stocks End Flat as Investors await Fed, BOJ Verdicts

TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks ended flat on Wednesday as profit-taking in the tech sector offset gains in healthcare, though the overall mood remained cautious in the run-up to key meetings by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 0.02% at 29,914.33, but the broader Topix edged up 0.13% to 1,984.03.

Sentiment for Japanese equities remained fairly positive due to a healthy outlook for the global economy and progress in COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, analysts said.

Japanese stocks, however, are likely to move in a narrow range for the remainder of the month as investors retreat to the sidelines with the fiscal year ending on March 31.

Investor focus has shifted to a Fed meeting expected to end later in the day, where some U.S. policymakers may bring forward their expectations for rate hikes due to an improving economy.

Investors also keenly await the outcome of a BOJ meeting that is expected to end later in the week. Japan’s central bank could abandon a numerical target for exchange-traded fund (ETFs) purchases, but analysts say the stock market is strong enough to continue rising if that did happen.

“If there is any disappointment in reaction to the BOJ, it won’t last long,” said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities.

“Japanese stocks have proven that they don’t need the BOJ to buy ETFs to rise sharply. Once we reach April a lot of new money will enter the stock market.”

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd up 2.53%, followed by Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd gaining 1.78%.

Tokyo Electric Power fell 10.15% after Japan’s atomic regulator found safety breaches at the company’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa station.

Honda Motor Co fell 1.35% after the automaker said it will halt production at a majority of U.S. and Canadian auto plants for a week due to supply-chain problems.

(Reporting by Stanley White, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

Source: Reuters

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