Nikkei rebounds as earnings support sentiment; BOJ outcome eyed
* Asahi Group Holdings soars on share buyback and record profit * Chipmakers in favour after U.S. competitor releases strong forecast * BOJ in spotlight, likely to stand pat on policy By Tomo Uetake TOKYO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rebounded on Thursday morning as robust earnings spurred on chipmakers and a handful of other companies, including brewer Asahi Group Holdings. Still, overall buying activity was relatively restrained, partly as the market was not expecting any fresh easing measures from the Bank of Japan at the end of its two-day policy meeting later on Thursday. "There are no broad catalysts to shift the market today, particularly because there is basically no expectation of any action from the BOJ," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex. "All we've got is very mixed movements from individual stocks." By the midday break, the Nikkei had moved up 0.6 percent to 11,313.68 after closing down 1 percent on Wednesday after the yen rebounded sharply after a Group of Seven official voiced concern about excessive moves in the Japanese currency. The broader Topix added 0.1 percent to 957.64. Taiyo Yuden Co Ltd was the third-most-weighted gainer, jumping 16.5 percent to 1,033 yen, its highest level since July 2001 after the electronic component maker raised its full-year net profit forecast to 3 billion yen, compared with a previous forecast to break even. JPMorgan said in a note to clients that the results had left a positive impression and hiked its own profit estimates for the next fiscal year and beyond. The brokerage also reiterated its 'overweight' rating for Taiyo Yuden's stock and hiked its target price to 1,060 yen from 760 yen. Investors zeroed in on Asahi, making it the fourth-weighted gainer with a rise of 7.1 percent after the beverage maker said it would buy back up to 30 billion yen ($322 million) worth of its own shares, or 4.3 percent of all its issued stock. Asahi also posted record sales and net profit for the year ended Dec. 31 on Wednesday, and said its appetite for overseas acquisitions is still strong. CHIPMAKERS BOOST Japanese chipmakers Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co Ltd , Advantest Corp and Tokyo Electron Ltd posted gains of between 3.7 and 9.5 percent after a forecast from U.S. counterpart Applied Materials Inc came out largely ahead of analysts' estimates as smartphones and tablets drive sales. However, earnings were a negative catalyst for Oki Electric Industry Co Ltd, which lost 2.8 percent after the telecommunication equipment maker cut its operating profit forecast for the year ending March 31 by 29 percent. Investors will also be keeping an eye on the BOJ, which is widely expected to keep monetary policy steady, but may improve its assessment of the economy and rebuff growing global concern that Tokyo is trying to deliberately weaken the yen. "Usually the BOJ doing nothing causes a bit of disappointment, but since there are concerns about the flak Japan might get at the G20 this weekend for the weakening yen, standing pat will actually be a relief to the market," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. The yen has slumped 15 percent against the dollar since mid-November, accelerating as Japan's new government put relentless pressure on the BOJ to launch more aggressive policy easing. The yen's slide has sparked concerns of a currency war due to the risks of competitive devaluations. During that time, the Nikkei has risen 31 percent, hitting a 33-month high of 11,463.75 on Feb. 6, mainly driven by exporters rising on a weakening yen and on optimism about prime minister Shinzo Abe's commitment to combat years of deflation and revive growth. Yoshihiko Tabei, general manager of capital markets research at Kazaka Securities, said the benchmark faces resistance around the 11,500 level. "The market needs a catalyst to get investors to buy beyond that level, such as the appointment of the new BOJ governor or the U.S. Dow hitting a new high," he said. The Japanese government is expected to announce the successor to BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa later this month.
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