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TOKYO: Japanese stocks were little changed on Wednesday, as investors refrained from betting heavily in either direction ahead of a key central bankers' gathering in the United States, which could provide markets with some near-term cues.

Markets are in a holding pattern ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's speech on Friday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, conference of central bank officials.

Investors will be looking for any policy hints from Powell ahead of the Fed's September meeting, at which it is widely expected to cut rates again.

The Nikkei share average ended the day 0.05% higher at 20,628.01 points.

The index has gained 1% so far this week, with German stimulus and Chinese policy easing hopes helping it pull away from a seven-month trough reached earlier in the month, when Washington labelled Beijing a currency manipulator and further stoked trade war concerns.

"A sense of caution still lingers, and the market may not find a clear sense of direction until United States activates the fourth round of tariffs in Chinese imports on Sept. 1," said Hiroaki Kuramochi, chief market analyst at Capital Partners Securities.

Cosmetics makers and retail store operators popular with tourists rose after government data showed the number of foreign visitors to Japan in July increased 5.6% from the previous year.

Shiseido was up 5.6%, leading the index on percentage gains. Fellow cosmetics companies Fancl Corp climbed 2.7% and Kose Corp added 1.9%.

Matsumotokiyoshi Holdings Co, which operates a chain of drugstores, rose 1.5% and Pan Pacific International Holdings Corp, the operator of Don Quijote discount stores, added 0.9%.

Technology shares advanced on the back of continuing strength in their U.S. counterparts, which have helped Wall Street's performance over the past week.

Tokyo Electron gained 1%, Advantest advanced 1.6% and SCREEN Holdings rose 3.3%.

There were 125 advancers on the Nikkei index against 93 decliners.

The largest percentage losses in the index were Pacific Metals Co Ltd, which fell 2.8%.

The broader Topix inched up 0.04% to 1,498.06.

Copyright Reuters, 2019