Nikkei up 1.6 percent on hopes for stronger China GDP

TOKYO Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:32pm EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average climbed 1.6 percent on Friday as talk of stronger-than-expected GDP figures from China eased concern over slowing global growth, lifting risk appetite after a seven-session losing run to Thursday.

Sharp gains in Fast Retailing Co Ltd (9983.T), which lifted its annual profit forecast to a record after a strong second quarter, also boosted the Nikkei benchmark.

Shrugging off a rocket launch by North Korea, the Nikkei .N225 was up 154.15 points at 9,678.94, and the broader Topix .TOPX advanced 1 percent to 817.97.

"It really depends on the Chinese data. If we get a 9 percent, then we are in for a run in the afternoon. If it is below 9, there's going to be profit-taking across the board," a dealer at a U.S. bank said.

Fast Retailing soared 8 percent to 18,860 yen and was the most traded stock by turnover on the main board.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised its target price on the retailer to 22,000 yen from 20,000 and maintained its "buy" rating.

Industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp (6954.T), which has significant exposure in China, surged 4 percent.

The rally also encouraged investors to pick up recently battered cyclicals such as automakers. Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) and Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) gained between 0.9 and 1.2 percent.

Bucking the trend, Sony Corp (6758.T) sagged 3.9 percent, with market participants voicing concern that the company's revival plan mapped out by new Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai late on Thursday was not enough to turn around the ailing consumer electronics maker.

The Nikkei is down 4.2 percent this month after rallying more than 19 percent in January-March to log its best first quarter performance in 24 years, buoyed by robust U.S. economic data and liquidity boosting programs by central banks.

(Additional reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Chris Lewis)