(Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average slipped on Tuesday but still hovered near the 9,000 level, with non-life insurers underperforming after MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings (8725.T) cut guidance on heavy losses on the flooding in Thailand.
MS&AD Insurance dropped 2.7 percent after it forecast a net loss of 145 billion yen ($1.9 billion) for the year to March, compared with a previous estimate of a 6 billion yen net profit.
The non-life insurer said it now expects 236 billion yen in payouts.
Peers NKSJ Holdings Inc (8630.T) shed 3 percent and Tokio Holdings Inc (8766.T) eased 0.8 percent, while the insurance subindex <.IINSU> fell 1.1 percent to be among the worst sectoral performers.
The Nikkei <.N225> was down 0.2 percent at 8,982.86, with the 200-day moving average near 9,052 acting as resistance, while the broader Topix <.TOPX> eased 0.2 percent to 780.12.
We are struggling at the 9,000 level ... There isn't a jolt in the market to really lift the whole thing higher, a sales trader at a foreign brokerage said, but adding that the recent increase in buying by foreign investors was a positive.
The benchmark Nikkei is up 6.2 percent so far this year as a brightening outlook for the U.S. economy and an injection of 489 billion euros ($646 billion) of three-year loans by the European Central Bank to boost liquidity outweighed disappointing Japanese corporate earnings.
Domestic investors have been sellers, however.
Equity mutual funds based in Japan suffered net outflows for a fourth straight month in January, the longest such spell in 15 years, though a recovery in global share prices pushed up asset value by nearly 3 percent.
The Bank of Japan ends a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, and although the market consensus is for no policy shift, some analysts say it may expand its 55 trillion yen ($710 billion) liquidity-boosting program by raising the 20 trillion yen asset-buying portion, mostly by purchasing more Japanese government bonds.
Other decliners on Tuesday included Nomura Holdings, down 1 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded Japan's largest investment bank to underperform from neutral, saying the recent rally in the stock had taken above its fair value.
Nomura has risen 33 percent this year after last year's nearly 55 percent battering.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch also cut Daiwa Securities Group Inc (8601.T) to underperform from neutral. Daiwa Securities shares were down 1.1 percent.
According to Thomson Reuters Datastream, the securities subindex .ISECU.T carries a 12-month price-to-earnings ratio of nearly 20. That compares with 11.9 for the Topix.
(Additional reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)