Nikkei rises for 9th straight week, longest run since 1988

Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:36am EST

* Nikkei rises 1.4 pct, Topix gains 1.1 pct in active trade
    * Sharp Corp jumps on report of possible additional loans
    * Index heavyweight Fast Retailing surges after quarterly
results
    * Japan's markets closed on Monday for national holiday

    By Tomo Uetake
    TOKYO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average rose 1.4
percent on Friday to log gains for ninth straight week, its
longest winning run since 1988, buoyed by comments by Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe to kick-start the ailing economy. 
    The benchmark Nikkei ended up 148.93 points at
10,801.57, its highest closing level since February 2011, with
exporters gaining on a softer yen after Abe told the Nikkei
newspaper that the central bank should consider pursuing maximum
employment as part of its mandate.
     The index was up 1.1 percent this week. Japan's markets are
closed on Monday for a national holiday.
     A 4.8-percent gain in index heavyweight Fast Retailing Co
, after the operator of casual clothing chain Uniqlo
reported strong quarterly results and lifted its full-year
forecast, also helped drive the Nikkei higher on Friday.
    "Investors' concerns about global growth prospects eased
while market expectations for Prime Minister Abe's policies
remain high. Also, a weak yen is expected to bolster exporters'
earnings," said Hiroichi Nishi, assistant general manager of
equity research at SMBC Nikko Securities.
     Abe made his biggest push yet to make jobs growth part of
the Bank of Japan's mandate as his government approved $117
billion of spending to revive the economy in the biggest
stimulus since the financial crisis. 
    His comments to the newspaper helped further weaken the yen,
which was quoted at 88.93 to the dollar on Friday after hitting
a 2-1/2-year low of 89.35 yen earlier.
    Exporters that benefited from the yen weakness included
Canon Inc, Mazda Motor, Fuji Heavy Industries
Ltd, which owns the Subaru brand, and Nikon Corp
, which were all up between 2.3 and 4.6 percent.
    Sharp Corp surged 12.6 percent to a three-week high
after the Asahi newspaper said Mizuho Corporate Bank and Bank of
Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ are considering providing additional loans
to the struggling TV maker. 
    Separately, the Mainichi daily said Sharp was likely to post
an operating profit of about 20 billion yen for the
October-December quarter on solid sales of its IGZO displays and
a weaker yen.
    The broader Topix index gained 1.1 percent to
898.69, with 3.5 billion shares changing hands, down from a
22-month high of 4.17 billion hit on Thursday.
    
    The Nikkei has surged nearly 25 percent over the past two
months, driven by weakness of the yen after Abe called on the
BOJ to adopt a more aggressive strategy for easing monetary
conditions, including setting an inflation target of 2 percent.
    However, some analysts said that Abe had gone too far
suggesting a restriction of the central bank's independence. But
others said  Abe's comments reminded the market that his 
government can override rejections of bills by the upper house
after winning an overwhelming majority of seats in the lower
house election in December.
    "Abe is seen seriously committed to making the economy
better as he is becoming more detailed, and investors are
feeling it is possible under his government," said Kyoya
Okazawa, head of global equities at BNP Paribas. 
    "While most macro funds have finished allocating Japan
shares to their portfolios by the end of the year, we are
getting inquiries from long-only funds which intend to pick up
Japanese stocks on fundamentals."
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