* Land deal scandal caps upside in Japanese equities -
* Toshiba rises more than 5 pct after Kyodo report
* Exporters under pressure from flat dollar/yen
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, March 17 Japan's Nikkei share average
edged down on Friday morning, as the yen held steady against the
dollar after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled fewer interest
rate hikes than some investors had expected.
The Nikkei shed 0.3 percent to 19,523.27 in
mid-morning trade, with the index heading to a weekly loss for
the first time in three weeks ahead of the three-day weekend.
The Nikkei has fallen 0.4 percent so far this week.
Markets are closed on Monday for a national holiday.
Traders said that also capping the upside in the market is a
land deal scandal involving Osaka-based Moritomo Gakuen, a
nationalist private educational entity that is chipping away at
the government's support ratings.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not donate money to the operator
of the school. Abe has denied that either he or his wife
intervened in a murky land deal by the operator of the school,
whose curriculum includes prewar-style patriotic education, or
in the process of getting accreditation by local authorities.
But after weeks of resisting, Abe's ruling party agreed on
Thursday to an opposition demand to summon the principal,
Yasunori Kagoike, as a sworn witness to testify in parliament on
March 23, parliamentary sources said.
"We didn't expect a testimony in parliament, so this bit of
news has escalated a level of concern," said Takuya Takahashi, a
strategist at Daiwa Securities. "This scandal hasn't directly
hit trading activity so far, but the new development (testimony)
is capping the upside in Japanese equities."
Exporters were pressured as the dollar was flat against the
yen on the day at 113.35.
Toyota Motor Corp fell 1.2 percent, Honda Motor Co
shed 0.7 percent and Tokyo Electron Ltd slid
Toshiba Corp bucked the weakness and rose more than
5 percent after Kyodo reported that Japan's industry minister
said that he had agreed with the U.S. energy and commerce
secretaries to share information on developments involving
Toshiba and its troubled U.S. nuclear affiliate, Westinghouse
"When there is a news report like this saying there will be
cooperation on a national level, retail investors' sentiment in
the stock recovers," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market
analyst at Rakuten Securities.
The broader Topix dropped 0.5 percent to 1,565.24
and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.5 percent to
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)