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Japan's Nikkei sinks to 3-week low as stronger yen hurts autos

By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average sank to a nearly three-week low on Monday as a stronger yen dented the earnings outlook for the nation's exporters, with automakers leading declines.

The Nikkei lost 0.64% to 33,216.05 as of the midday recess, after earlier sliding as much as 1.22% to reach 33,023.04 for the first time since Nov. 14.

The broader Topix slumped 0.78%.

Transport equipment was by far the worst performer among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's 33 industry groups, declining 2.38%.

The yen pushed to a nearly three-month high of 146.235 per dollar on Monday before easing back to around 146.65.

"There's a strong impression that stocks are being pulled around by moves in currency markets," said Kazuo Kamitani, a strategist at Nomura Securities.

At the same time, "I think it would be quite difficult for yen strength to reach 144 or 143 per dollar, and this may instead be a near-term peak," he added.

With the Nikkei's 25-day moving average pointing strongly upward, "if there is some positive driver, it wouldn't be strange for the Nikkei at any moment to push toward 34,000," Kamitani said.

The Nikkei reached a 33-year peak on Nov. 20 at 33,853.46.

On Monday, 164 of the index's 225 components fell, versus 59 that rose and two that were flat.

Mazda was the worst-performing auto stock, dropping 3.93%, while Toyota lost 2.26% and Nissan sank 3.29%.

The biggest percentage decliner, however, was online company CyberAgent with a 4.52% slump.

Semiconductor-related shares also underperformed, with chip-making equipment giant Tokyo Electron and chip-testing machine maker Advantest the two biggest drags. The stocks sank 0.9% and 1.58% respectively.

At the other end, real estate was the only Nikkei sector to advance. Sumitomo Realty & Development and Tokyo Tatemono rose 1.8% each. (Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala)

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