Nikkei rises as exporters gain on U.S. data, Italy debt sale
* Nikkei rises 1.9 pct, Topix up 1.6 pct as exporters, financial lead uptick * Nikkei moving towards 12,000 near term- analyst * Upbeat U.S. data, well-bid Italian debt sale buoy sentiment * Komatsu surges on report of strong operating profit for FY13 By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average rebounded from a two-day losing run on Thursday after a well-bid Italian debt auction eased concerns that an inconclusive election could reignite the euro zone debt crisis and U.S. data showed the economy was gaining momentum. Stocks that were sold off heavily in the previous two sessions led the bounce, with Toyota Motor Corp up 2 percent, Honda Motor Co gaining 3.0 percent and Canon Inc adding 3.4 percent. The Nikkei climbed 1.9 percent to 11,462.63 by the midday break, breaking above its five-day moving average of 11,432.77, after shedding 3.5 percent in the previous two sessions. The index is tracking in a range close to a 53-month high of 11,662.52 marked on Monday. "It's certainly a great chance to buy" after the past two days, said Stefan Worrall, director of equity sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. "What we had coming into this week was some suggestion that the market was stretched. The market was due for a correction. It was well telegraphed and well discussed. There had been other factors too contributing to the uncertainty, such as the Italian election." Analysts said that the short-term correction seems to have run its course and the Japanese market is heading towards retesting the 53-month highs next week mainly on hopes for aggressive easing. The government is expected to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, an advocate of monetary easing, as its next central bank chief. "Investors overreacted to the rising yen after the Italian election uncertainty startled the market," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. "The Nikkei may not put on sharp gains in the near term unless the yen sharply drops, but it certainly is on track to move higher towards 12,000." The benchmark Nikkei has rallied nearly 32 percent since mid-November as the yen weakened after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on bold reflationary policies aimed at reviving the economy. Sentiment on the day got a boost from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke restating the Fed's commitment to monetary stimulus, while Wednesday's better U.S. economic data also underpinned risk appetite. A gauge of planned U.S. business spending recorded its largest increase in more than a year in January and contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes approached a near three-year high last month. Investors were also relieved after a well-bid Italian debt auction. Italy's borrowing costs rose to their highest in four months on Wednesday at the first bond auction since this week's inconclusive election but solid demand from domestic investors eased fears that the political deadlock could destabilize Europe's second-biggest sovereign debt market. Financials also enjoyed a bounce, with Nomura Holdings , Japan's top brokerage, up 2.3 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group putting on 2.7 percent. Japanese banks' earnings outlook improved sharply in February. Their one-month earnings momentum -- analysts' earnings upgrades minus downgrades as a total of estimates -- rose to 30.2 percent from 3.1 percent in January, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. That compared with an average of 8 percent for Japanese companies in February. The broader Topix index gained 1.6 percent to 969.12 with 1.58 billion shares changing hands by the midday break, which is on track to post moderate daily volume. Last week's average daily volume was 2.93 billion shares. Komatsu Ltd surged 4.8 percent after the Nikkei newspaper said the construction machinery maker was expected to forecast a 30 percent jump in operating profit for the fiscal year ending March 2014 from its estimate of 230 billion yen for this business year.
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