UPDATE 1-Nomura Asset halts subscriptions as Japan equity fund nears limit

Fri May 17, 2013 5:44am EDT

* Nomura Asset's fund has grown four-fold since Dec, to $8.8 bln

* Other funds also halting subscriptions as stock rally revives sector

* Japan-focused equity funds' net inflows 300 bln yen in April -Lipper (Adds details on Nomura Asset fund, background on other funds halting subscriptions)

By Chikafumi Hodo

TOKYO, May 17 (Reuters) - Japan's top fund manager Nomura Asset Management said it will halt new subscriptions to its $8.8 billion actively managed Japanese equities mutual fund, the largest such equities fund in Japan, as it neared peak capacity during a prolonged share rally.

Nomura Asset said the suspension of its Nomura Japan Brand Equity Investment Fund would take effect on May 20.

Japan-focused equities mutual funds have also reached their upper limits in recent weeks at JP Morgan Asset Management, Nikko Asset Management and other fund firms. Japanese retail investors have flocked to them as share prices surged to five-year highs under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reflationary economic policies.

The flurry of interest could spur other asset managers to structure new Japan-focused funds, which until this year had been languishing in the doldrums since the onset of the financial crisis.

The Nomura Asset fund's assets under management totalled 895.5 billion yen ($8.78 billion) as of Thursday, a four-fold increase from 240 billion yen at the end of December.

The fund, launched in April 2009, held shares in 81 companies as of April 30, according to its latest monthly report. The top five holdings were Japan Tobacco Inc, Bridgestone Corp, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Toyota Motor Corp and Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd .

Japanese equities mutual funds have emerged from a long slump as Abe's plans to fight deflation, dubbed Abenomics, triggered a rally in the benchmark Nikkei average of about 70 percent since mid-November.

Net inflows to Japanese equity-focused mutual funds totalled 300 billion yen in April, the highest monthly influx since December 2005, data from Thomson Reuters fund research firm Lipper showed.

A monthly survey by Investment Trusts Association of Japan showed a fourth straight month of net inflows to domestic equities funds in April - the longest streak since in 2006.

Japanese equities funds saw net inflows in only eight of the 72 months from January 2007 to December 2012.

Nikko Asset said last week it halted subscriptions to its Nikko Small and Middle Capitalisation Growth fund after assets under management approached the 55 billion yen limit.

In April, JP Morgan Asset Management halted new subscriptions to its "JPM The Japan" fund, a Japanese equity mutual fund, because it was nearing its limit of 200 billion yen. ($1 = 101.9600 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Chikafumi Hodo; Editing by Edmund Klamann)