Nikkei vaults to new 4-1/2 year high on overseas lead
* Nakayama Steel soars on reports about subsidiaries * Sekisui House shoots up on profit forecast * Market "not overheated"- analyst By Sophie Knight TOKYO, March 8 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average stormed to a fresh 53-month high in mid-morning trade on Friday, buoyed by bullish data from the United States and continued optimism for more aggressive easing from the new Bank of Japan leadership. The Nikkei advanced 1.4 percent to 12,137.56, its highest level since September 2008. It also sailed past the settlement price of a slew of options and futures that expired on Friday morning at 12,072.98, according to market sources. "I get the feeling there's a lot of basket-buying going on. When the futures go up that pulls up the whole market," said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, general manager of investment and research at SMBC Friend Securities. Investors were bullish after the BOJ raised its outlook, saying Japan's economy was "bottoming out" at the last meeting chaired by governor Masaaki Shirakawa before successor Haruhiko Kuroda, who is expected to implement aggressive easing, takes his place. Bearing out analysts' predictions of a boost to real estate from such easing, Sekisui House Ltd said it expects operating profit for the year ending January 2014 to jump 28 percent due to increases in rental agreements and new-builds. Its share price shot up 12.7 percent. Nakayama Steel Works Ltd also saw strong gains, soaring 17.5 percent after the Nikkei business daily said the electric furnace steelmaker was to turn five group companies into wholly owned subsidiaries as part of its restructuring plan. Expectations of easing helped the yen slip to 95.1 against the dollar overnight, given an extra nudge by strong U.S. jobless claims data that ramped up expectations for the nonfarm payroll data out later on Friday. Analysts say foreign investors continue to pile into large-cap exporters as the yen stays soft, while retail investors are buying up smaller domestic-focused companies. "I don't get the feeling that the market is overheated at the moment. The Nikkei is only about 5 percent above its 25-day moving average, but it was hovering 9 percent above it in January," Nakanishi of SMBC Friend Securities said. The only losers, Nakanishi added, were likely to be those shares of companies hurt by a soft yen. The weakest sectoral performer on Friday morning was the electric and gas sub-index , which dropped 1.5 percent. The broader Topix added 0.9 percent to 1,013.20 by mid-morning. Index heavyweight and operator of the Uniqlo clothing storres Fast Retailing Co Ltd was the most-traded stock on the main board, giving 30 positive points to the Nikkei and leaving it 16 percent up on the week after strong February sales were announced on Monday. But convenience stores were weak, with FamilyMart Co Ltd dropping 2 percent after the Nikkei business daily said its operating profit for the year ended Feb. 28 was likely to come in below its prevously projected 45 billion yen, partly due to a drop in cigarette sales. Competitor Lawson Inc also ran against the market, losing 0.6 percent.
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