Nikkei seen strong on further signs of U.S. recovery, weak yen
TOKYO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was expected to climb on Monday after robust data pointed to a U.S. economic recovery on track, lifting U.S. stocks to five-year highs and helping the dollar extend gains against the yen. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 11,200 to 11,400 on Monday after Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 11,280, up 1 percent from the close in Osaka of 11,170. U.S. data showed job creation is increasing steadily and the pace of growth in manufacturing hit a nine-month high in January. The yen, already on rapid downtrend due to aggressive stance on fiscal and montetary policy easing from new Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, slumped to a fresh 33-month low of 92.83 versus the greenback by Monday morning before the stock market open. "Signs of strength in the U.S. economy encourages risk taking and weakened the yen, both of which will make investors eager to buy up stocks of firms that benefit from a softer exchange rate," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. Optimism that a weaker yen will swell exporters' revenues has driven the Nikkei up 29 percent since mid-November, when Abe, then candidate for opposition leader began calling for a softer currency, as well as aggressive monetary policy to drag Japan out of deflation. Japan's earning season is now in full swing, though the last quarter's results have shown little evidence of the exchange rate's benefits. Sixty-six percent of the 47 percent of companies that have reported so far have beaten analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine. "There have been two very different reactions to bad results: one, the stock is simply sold off, or two, it is bought up because there's positive signs of what's to come," Doshida said. "So Nintendo was sold off after it cut its forecast even though the yen is weak, but Komatsu was bought up despite cutting its forecast because there's signs of a pick-up in China, where it has high exposure," he added. Japan Airlines Co Ltd and Hitachi Ltd among those to report after close on Monday. The Nikkei closed up 0.5 percent to 11,191.34 on Friday, with its weekly advance of 2.4 percent giving it 12 straight weeks of gains, its longest weekly winning streak since 1959. > Wall St surges to 5-year highs; Dow ends above 14,000 > Euro broadly stronger, U.S. dollar up after jobs data > Bonds slip as stock gains hurt bid for safe-haven debt > Gold lifted by US payrolls data, posts weekly gain > Brent crude jumps, premium over US crude widens STOCKS TO WATCH - SHARP CORP Sharp eked out a quarterly operating profit on Friday, improving the bailed-out consumer electronics maker's chances of convincing lenders and shareholders that it remains a viable company. -PANASONIC CORP Panasonic posted a quarterly operating profit of 34.6 billion yen ($379 million) for the October-December period, up from an 8.1 billion yen loss a year ago, and maintained its forecast for a full-year operating profit. It maintained its record net loss forecast on write-downs of goodwill and assets. -TOBU RAILWAY CO LTD Tobu Railway is likely to have doubled its operating profit to around 37 billion yen ($400 million) in the nine months ended December, the Nikkei business daily said, largely due to the success of Tokyo Skytree, a popular tourist attraction. -SUMITOMO CHEMICAL CO LTD Sumitomo Chemical said it expects to see a 50 billion yen net loss in the financial year ending March 31, partly due to an extraordinary loss from shutting down an ethlyene plant in Chiba, Japan. The company also said it would pay a full-year dividend of 6 yen for the whole year but not in the fourth quarter.
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