* Investors take profits after Nikkei hits 20,000 * Market supported by economy, corporate reform hopes * Food companies succumb to profit-taking By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO, April 14 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average was flat on Tuesday as investors preferred to pull back a little after the recent rally as they prepared for the looming earnings season.

The broader Topix posted small gains despite overnight weakness on Wall Street, however, underpinned by hopes of earnings growth and expectations the economy will pick up momentum in coming months.

The Nikkei average ended morning trade almost flat at 19,896.94, off a 15-year intraday high of 20,006.00 touched on Friday.

“Those who want to sell are selling after the Nikkei hit 20,000. I believe the market right now is in a stage of preparing for earnings,” said Hiroki Takashi, chief strategist at Monex Securities.

Starting from late in the month, many Japanese companies will report their earnings for the year that ended on March 31 and guidance for the new financial year.

Investors expect Corporate Japan to continue to post earnings growth thanks to a cheaper yen boosting exporters’ margins and on a fall in input prices including oil and other raw materials.

“So far the market has been bought on expectations. At the moment, few people feel the economy is doing well but once you start to see rising wages and an increase in domestic production, there will be buying based on those facts, not just hopes,” said Tsuyoshi Shimizu, chief strategist at Mizuho Asset Management.

Japanese shares have rallied so far this year on optimism over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to boost profitability at companies and to make public investors buy more stocks.

On the day, investors were booking profits in recent gainers such as food companies.

Kikkoman Corp fell 2.0 percent while Meiji Holdings also dropped 2.0 percent. Both had risen more than 30 percent so far this year.

Industrial robot maker Fanuc, another strong outperformer, fell 1.7 percent, contributing to the Nikkei’s underperformance due to its heavy weighting in the average.

On the other hand, the broader Topix rose 0.3 percent to 1,590.17 while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 0.1 percent to 14,436.47.

Among the top gainers were Sony, which rose 1.6 percent to hit a 6 1/2-year high. Softbank rose 1.5 percent.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)