Japan's Nikkei slips as investors gauge Fed policymakers' comments

By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average extended losses on Thursday, continuing its retreat from a nearly two-month high, as it tracked downbeat performances on Wall Street after investors positioned for a protracted period of high U.S. interest rates.

The earnings season witnessed a mix of big winners and losers. Shares of materials maker Teijin and Pacific Metals posted gains of about 6% each following upbeat quarterly earnings, while Fujifilm sagged 2.6%.

The Nikkei ended the morning session down 0.5% at 27,479.86, but hovered around the 27,500 level it had scaled late-January. At the start of the week, the index hit its highest since mid-December at 27,821.22 amid strong earnings results.

The broader Topix slipped 0.2% to 1,980.07.

All three big U.S. stock indexes dropped overnight, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq, as a chorus of Fed speakers backed the idea of more hikes and high rates for longer.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index dropped 2.2%.

The drop hurt Japanese chip-related stocks as well, with chip-making equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron slumping 2.3% and shaving 37 points off the Nikkei, making it the biggest drag. Chip-testing equipment maker Advantest was next, subtracting 14 index points with a 2% slide.

"The market is shifting to the view that there won't be any monetary loosening by the Fed this year, and some people who had been thinking the peak in rates would come in March now think there's probably going to be another hike after that," Kazuo Kamitani, a strategist at Nomura in Tokyo, said in a call with journalists.

U.S. consumer price data on Tuesday will provide a crucial clue to Fed policy direction, he said, and until then both U.S. and Japanese stock markets are likely to be broadly directionless.

Of the Nikkei's 225 components, 76 rose versus 138 that fell, with 11 flat.

Basic materials sub-index was the best performing sector, rising 0.8%, followed by a 0.5% gain for energy. Utilities were the laggards with a 1% drop, while tech shares lost 0.7%. (Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)