Nikkei seen topping 12,000 on overseas lead
TOKYO, March 8 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average is expected to top the 12,000 mark on Friday, buoyed by signs of improvement in the euro zone and bullish jobs data from the United States, with domestic stocks also underpinned by expectations of aggressive monetary easing. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 11,900 and 12,150 on Friday after Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 12,135, up 1.5 percent from the close in Osaka of 11,900. A slew of options and futures will expire on Friday morning in a so-called options "SQ", or "special quotation", which usually spikes volumes. "The point to watch out for is whether the Nikkei can top the options settlement price. All the positive news from overseas suggests it has the momentum to do so," said Yoshihiro Ito, chief strategist at Okasan Online Securities. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said he expects economic activity in the euro zone to gradually recover, given firming global demand. He held interest rates at current levels but cut growth forecasts for the region in 2013, leaving room for future rate cuts. Strong U.S. jobless claims data signalled further improvement in the country's employment market, propelling the Dow to record highs for a third straight day. Investors are now awaiting non-farm payroll data out later on Friday. On Thursday, the Nikkei struck a fresh 4-1/2 year high, closing up 0.3 percent to 11,968.08 after climbing as high as 12,069.60 earlier in the day on expectations of more aggressive monetary easing once new governor Haruhiko Kuroda takes his seat. Outgoing governor Masaaki Shirakawa kept monetary policy unchanged as expected at the end of his last policy meeting on Thursday. "Although a weaker yen allowed exporters to power the beginning of this rally, the focus is now turning to stocks linked to domestic demand, which should continue to push the Nikkei up," Ito of Okasan Online Securities said. > Dow closes at another high, eyes turn to U.S. payrolls > Euro bounces back as Draghi dampens easing view > Prices fall as jobless data stirs optimism on economy > Gold drops as stimulus hopes fade, payrolls eyed > Crude rises on surprise drop in U.S. jobless claims STOCKS TO WATCH - SHARP CORP Sharp is likely to seek fresh bank loans to help it repay a $2.1 billion convertible bond due in September, with no further equity deals likely after Samsung Electronics Co agreed to buy a 3 percent stake in the company for $111 million, three sources familiar with the matter said. -NIPPON SHEET GLASS CO LTD Nippon Sheet Glass is to shut two factories in the U.K. this spring due to weak glass demand in Europe, with over 90 employees to be dismissed, according to the Nikkei business daily. -NAKAYAMA STEEL WORKS LTD Nakayama Steel is to turn five group companies into wholly owned subsidiaries as part of its plan to restructure its operators with the help of the government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp, the Nikkei newspaper said on Friday. - KIRIN HOLDINGS CO LTD Kirin will invest around 7 billion yen ($74 million) to boost beer production in its Australian group company Lion, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday, quoting the CEO as saying the company will strengthen its foreign acquisitions this year.