Nikkei rises led by Softbank, Yahoo Japan; earnings in focus
* Nikkei hovers near 32-month high * Softbank up more than 3 pct * Yahoo Japan jumps on share buyback, earnings and div forecast hikes By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose on Wednesday, led by gains in Softbank Corp and Yahoo Japan Corp on optimistic profit expectations while earnings-related news dominated the market as investors awaited trading cues from the corporate sector. Softbank rose more than 3 percent, being the most traded stock on the main board by turnover after Dish Network Corp decided against filing to block Sprint Nextel Corp's proposed deal with Softbank, at least for now. A Nikkei report that the mobile phone carrier likely generated a group operating profit of about 590 billion yen ($6.51 billion) for nine months ended December is serving as a tailwind, traders said. The Nikkei added 0.8 percent to 10,952.37, not far from a 32-month high of 11,002.86 reached on Monday. With quarterly earnings for the October-December period in the spotlight, analysts said that investors were focused on prospects for the fiscal year ending March 2014 as they start scrutinising companies' financial details such as how far a recently weak yen could push up bottom lines. "Before, investors were like, 'just buy bellwether Japan stocks', but now they are being selective," said Hiromichi Tamura, chief strategist at Nomura Securities. "Many of them still want to add more Japanese shares to their portfolios, and companies that are reporting strong results and forecasts are in focus." Yahoo Japan jumped as much as 21.4 percent to a four-year high of 38,600 yen after it said it planned to buy back up to 20 billion yen ($221 million) of its own shares, or 1.4 percent of its issued stock. The company also lifted its full-year operating profit forecast to a range of 179.30 billion yen to 181.70 billion yen from a previous estimate of between 173.30 billion and 177.00 billion yen, citing stronger advertising sales. It also raised its annual dividend forecast to a range of 382-387 yen per share from a previous forecast of 370-378 yen. "Investors have shifted their focus to prospects for the full-year (ending this March) as well as next year (through March 2014)," said Hiroichi Nishi, an assistant general manager of equity investment at SMBC Nikko Securities. Komatsu Ltd was up 0.3 percent after falling as much as 3.8 percent as the world's second-largest maker of construction machinery cut its annual operating profit forecast for a second time this financial year as demand for mining equipment in Indonesia fell. "Even if some earnings disappoint the market, the impact on the overall market should be limited because investors will probably buy shares on dips as fundamental sentiment is being supported by 'Abenomics'," Nishi said. Companies reporting results later on Wednesday include Nintendo Co, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and NTT Docomo Inc. Investors have been piling into the Japanese market in the hope that "Abenomics", Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's brand of economic policy involving aggressive monetary easing and a weaker yen, will boost such stocks as exporters and financials. The Nikkei has risen about 26 percent since mid-November, when Abe, then a candidate for leader of the opposition and now prime minister, began calling for aggressive monetary easing. The broader Topix gained 0.5 percent to 925.70.
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