May 7, 2018 / 6:46 AM / 17 days ago

Nikkei ends flat; hopes for BOJ's ETF-buying offset weaker financials

TOKYO, May 7 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average ended flat in choppy trade on Monday as hopes that the central bank would buy exchange-traded funds offset weakness in financials which were hit by falling U.S. yields.

The Nikkei ended little changed at 22,467.16, after trading in negative territory in early deals.

The broader Topix added 0.1 percent to 1,773.18.

Traders speculated that the Bank of Japan would buy ETFs to support a weak morning session.

“On top of those hopes for the BOJ’s ETF buying, retail investors chased small caps higher,” said Chihiro Ohta, general manager of investment research at SMBC Nikko Securities.

The market was choppy in morning trade after opening a tad higher, as investors returning from Golden Week holidays found no surprise from the U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting last Wednesday. Japanese markets were closed from Wednesday through Friday.

Liquid stocks such as Monex Group attracted buying by retail investors, surging 5.2 percent and was the most traded stock by turnover.

Defensive stocks which include utilities also gained, with Tokyo Electric Power Co up 4.6 percent and Chubu Electric Power 2.7 percent higher.

On the other hand, financial firms, which hunt for higher-yielding products such as foreign bonds, stumbled after U.S. Treasury yields dropped to multiweek lows on Friday, before ending flat.

The securities sector fell 1.3 percent and was the worst performer on the board, while insurers dropped 0.9 percent. Nomura Holdings slumped 2.2 percent and T&D Holdings declined 2.5 percent.

Mining shares outperformed, with Inpex rising 0.9 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration gaining 1.2 percent after oil prices surged as a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela threatened the country’s already tumbling oil supply. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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