Nikkei hits five-year high on Wall St.,German data; Sharp surges
* Softbank rises after strong Alibaba quarterly results * Sharp up on report of screen production for next iPhone * Toshiba sags on report of undershooting earnings guidance By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, May 8 (Reuters) - Japanese shares hit a five-year high on Wednesday, buoyed by a record finish on Wall Street and data showing unexpectedly strong industrial orders for Germany, easing concerns over the euro zone's powerhouse. Sharp Corp surged 7.5 percent after a newspaper reported that the struggling consumer electronics maker would begin mass production of liquid crystal displays for the next model of Apple Inc's iPhone 5 in June. The Nikkei share average climbed 1.4 percent to 14,371.65 by the midday break after hitting as high as 14,376.30, its highest since June 2008, extending the previous session's 3.6 percent rally that came after an extended holiday and last week's strong U.S. jobs data. Investor sentiment was helped by a jump in German industrial orders, which confounded expectations for a drop while U.S. stocks continued their strong run, with the S&P 500 hitting another record high. "The steady inflows from foreign investors are ongoing. It wasn't apparent yesterday just because people are still off for holiday. But today we are seeing more buying demand than yesterday. It is providing good support for the market," a trader at a foreign brokerage said. The broader Topix index gained 1.1 percent to 1,201.93. EARNINGS IN FOCUS Japanese corporate earnings as well as forecasts for the current year through March are also in focus. "So far, the overall impression is that results seem to be good but forecasts are conservative," said Hiromichi Tamura, chief strategist at Nomura Securities. "But the momentum has been strong and investors expect further rises in the Japanese market." Tamura, who predicts the Nikkei to touch 14,500 by June and 16,000 at the end of the year, said that the index's recent surge has not stopped investors from buying more stocks. "Japanese stocks are cheap given companies' potential growth in their earnings mid-term even though forecasts are conservative at this point," he said. In April, foreign investors snapped up Japanese stocks, with net buying at 2.68 trillion yen, the highest monthly level since July 1982 when the Tokyo Stock Exchange started keeping records. The benchmark Nikkei has surged more than 65 percent since mid-November, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began promising expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to revive the economy during his election campaign. Stocks got a further shot in the arm on April 4 when the Bank of Japan stunned markets by launching a massive monetary expansion campaign aimed at lifting the economy from its long slumber. On Wednesday, index heavyweight SoftBank Corp climbed 3.7 percent after Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group, in which the Japanese firm holds a stake, reported a roughly 80 percent year-on-year increase in revenue to $1.84 billion in the last three months of 2012. Mitsubishi Estate Co, however, fell 3.5 percent to 3,080 yen after the realtor said it sees lower-than-expected operating profit for the year ending March 2014. Toshiba Corp sagged 4.3 percent after the Nikkei said Japan's leading chipmaker and supplier to Apple was likely to miss its own operating profit forecast by 23 percent for the business year that ended in March. Toshiba, which is to announce its fourth quarter results after the market close, was the most traded stock on the main board by turnover. Of the 67 Nikkei companies that have posted quarterly results so far, 55 percent of them either beat or met market expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. That compared with 62 percent misses in the previous quarter.