Nikkei up 2 pct as Spain, global growth worries ease

Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:55am EDT

* Nikkei surges 2.1 pct, best one-day rise in 3 weeks

* Toyota, exporters helped by weaker yen

* Financials gain as Spain worries ease somewhat

By Dominic Lau

TOKYO, April 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei index rallied 2.1 percent on Wednesday on robust U.S. corporate earnings, firm demand for Spanish debt and an upbeat German economic sentiment survey, with signals that the Bank of Japan may take more easing steps also providing momentum.

Mike Newman, head of research at Macquarie in Japan, said investors need to be selective in picking stocks, however, as the first quarter rally has petered out.

"Now the beta rally is behind us it now comes to individual companies to deliver sustained earnings. Toyota Motor and Yokogawa Electric are two examples of stocks that we think have good long term fundamentals to generate those sustained earnings," he said.

The Nikkei closed 202.55 points higher at 9,667.26, breaking above its 13-week moving average near 9,583, after falling below the psychologically key 9,500 mark on Monday.

The index has lost 5.7 percent since hitting a one-year peak on March 27, however.

BOJ Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura said the central bank is ready to take additional steps to ease monetary policy as necessary, also helping to lift sentiment after this week's sell-off on concerns over Spain's ability to finance its debt.

Toyota Motor Corp, industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp and TDK Corp were among exporters that were in demand, up between 2.8 and 3.7 percent as improved global risk appetite helped push the yen lower.

The broader Topix advanced 2 percent to 819.27.

Trading volume on the main board remained light, with 1.67 billion shares changing hands, up from 1.54 billion shares on Tuesday but down from last week's average of 1.92 billion.

"There are a lot of companies reporting this week in the U.S. ... I think just ahead of numbers, people are a little bit reluctant to put stuff to work," a senior dealer at a foreign bank said.

STILL DOWNBEAT ON JAPAN

Financials were also in demand as concerns over Spain eased somewhat after the country raised more funding than planned at its bill auction on Tuesday.

Sentiment also improved after German analyst and investor confidence rose unexpectedly in April to a high not seen since June 2010, while the U.S. company earnings season has had a surprisingly strong start.

Nomura Holdings, Japan's top investment bank, surged 3.8 percent. Megabanks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group , Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group gained between 2.4 and 3.2 percent.

Nippon Electric Glass bucked the trend, down 1.7 percent after JPMorgan cut the company to "underweight" from "neutral", citing a decline in earnings from its key LCD glass segment.

Global investors' appetite towards Japanese equities has waned in April.

A monthly survey of asset managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch showed investor allocation in Japanese stocks fell to 10 percent net underweight this month from 4 percent in March, but still above February's net 23 percent underweight.

The Topix carried a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of 12.3, slightly cheaper than the U.S. S&P 500's 12.5 but more expensive than the STOXX Europe 600's 10, data from Thomson Reuters Datastream showed.

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