Japanese stocks struggled for traction on Wednesday, with buying in defensive stocks barely offsetting worries about the impact of a stronger yen as the US dollar flounders.
The Nikkei share average was up 0.1 per cent to 20,012.12 by midmorning after dipping into negative territory.
Toyota Motor Corp shed 1.0 per cent, Nissan Motor Co declined 1.2 per cent, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group fell 0.6 per cent and Dai-ichi Life Holdings tumbled 1.6 per cent.
However, most investors on Wednesday downplayed the impact of a stronger yen on exporters' earnings, which limited the losses.
The dollar slipped 0.1 per cent on the day to 111.950 yen, after falling as low as 111.685 on Tuesday, its lowest since June 27.
On Wednesday, defensive stocks attracted buying. Cosmetics maker Shiseido Co gained 1.7 per cent, toiletry goods maker Kao Corp surged 3.0 per cent and brewer Kirin Holdings Co soared 2.6 per cent.
A Reuters poll showed that Japanese manufacturers' and service providers' business confidence remained high in July, underlining the central bank's upbeat view on the economy.
At a two-day rate review that ends on Thursday, the Bank Of Japan is seen likely to keep monetary policy steady even as it cuts its inflation forecast.
The broader Topix was up 0.1 per cent to 1,621.80 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 was flat at 14,412.38.