Nikkei seen hitting fresh 4-1/2 year high on strong US jobs data
TOKYO, March 11 (Reuters) - The Nikkei share average is expected to rise on Monday following surprisingly strong U.S. jobs data, with a weaker yen likely to fuel gains in exporters and push the benchmark past the 4-1/2 year high it hit on Friday. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 12,250 and 12,450 after Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 12,345, up 1 percent from the close in Osaka of 12,220. The benchmark is also expected to rise sharply at the open after foreign brokerages put in a net 31.5 million buy orders for Japanese shares. U.S. indexes were at or near all-time highs after data showed that 236,000 jobs were created in February, well above a consensus expectation of 160,000, while unemployment dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. Signs of an authentic recovery in the U.S. labour market are likely to bolster sentiment among investors in the Japanese market, which is already riding a bullish streak on expectations of aggressive easing by the Bank of Japan under incoming governor Haruhiko Kuroda. Those expectations have helped the yen slide to 96 versus the dollar - its weakest since August 2009 - boding well for exporters' overseas earnings when repatriated. "The Topix's 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio is now 13.3, which implies that investors are pricing in a 50 to 60 percent increase in profits for companies, based on the weaker yen," said Masayuki Doshida, a senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. "However, that means Japanese shares are no longer looking so cheap compared to U.S. or German stocks, which may blunt the rally," he added. The Nikkei jumped 2.6 percent on Friday to 12,283.62, a level not seen since early September 2008. That took it to its biggest weekly gain since December 2011, of 5.8 percent. > Wall St climbs on jobs, S&P up for 9th week out of 10 > Dollar rallies across the board on US jobs data > Prices fall, yields jump on February job growth > Gold flat after U.S. payrolls, palladium up demand hope > Brent crude slips, high-priced RINs boost U.S. gasoline STOCKS TO WATCH - SUMITOMO MITSUI TRUST HOLDINGS INC Sumitomo Mitsui Trust, Japan's fifth-largest banking group, said on Friday it will repay 200 billion yen ($2.1 billion) in public bailout money, ending more than a decade of partial government ownership. - SHARP CORP Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd will not invest in Sharp before a March 26 deadline after the two firms failed to revise an earlier agreement, although the Taiwanese company has not ruled out an investment altogether, the Asahi newspaper said. - MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES Southern California Edison officials on Friday disputed findings of a report from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that indicated both companies were aware of a design problem with steam generator tubes now blamed for an extended shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear station in California.