Nikkei steady as investors pause after rally; automakers, insurers down

* Large cap stocks prone to profit-taking – traders * Japan machinery data and China trade have little impact By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, April 13 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average was steady in a choppy Monday morning session, with some investors pocketing gains in major stocks such as Toyota Motor Corp after the index touched the key 20,000 level last week.

The Nikkei edged down 0.1 percent to 19,882.42 at the midday break after shifting in and out of positive territory, while the broader Topix underperformed, falling 0.4 percent to 1,583.57.

The Nikkei index traded above 20,000 for the first time since April 2000 on Friday, and has risen 2.4 percent in the past week, but the push was short-lived as investors were quick to cash in on recent gains.

“Investors took a breather and calmed down on the weekend after the index hit the psychological resistance line,” said Takatoshi Itoshima, chief portfolio manager at Commons Asset Management.

Toyota, which hit a record high last month, fell 1.2 percent. Other automakers were also weaker, with Nissan Motor Co , which rose to its highest since November 2007 last month, shedding 2.4 percent.

Other recent gainers including insurance stocks also lost ground. Tokio Marine Holdings dropped 1.3 percent and Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdings shed 1.9 percent.

Analysts said that investors may stay on the sidelines ahead of the peak of U.S. corporate earnings season for the first quarter.

While some companies reported last week, this week will see results from a number of major firms, including several banks and multi-national firms.

“Some companies like Intel Corp have already warned the market by cutting forecasts, so it will be a matter of how much of the weak earnings is priced into the market,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Japan’s better-than-expected core machinery orders released on Monday morning, a key gauge of capital spending, didn’t have much sway in the market.

China’s exports, which contracted 15 percent in March from a year earlier in a surprise drop, also had little impact on trade.

The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 dropped 0.5 percent to 14,391.50.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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