Nikkei set to break above 15,000 on Wall St gains, election hopes
TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average is expected to rise above 15,000 on Friday, helped by gains on Wall Street and a weakening yen, while expectations of a ruling party victory in this weekend's upper house election are supporting sentiment. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 14,800 and 15,100 after rising 1.3 percent to 14,808.50 on Thursday. If the index trades above the 15,000 mark, it will be its first move above this level since May 24. Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 14,965, up 1.1 percent from the close in Osaka at 14,800. U.S. stocks closed at record highs on Thursday on strong corporate earnings, while Wednesday's comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben on monetary policy further reassured markets. In the domestic market, hopes for an economic recovery are boosting investors' appetites, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc is expected to win a hefty majority in the upper house election on July 21. That victory, if it occurs, would end the "twisted Diet" in which the opposition controls the upper chamber, giving Abe more freedom to push "Abenomics", his aggressive monetary easing and government spending policies. "The market welcomes the end of a twisted Diet as it would make it easier to pass legislation and there are hopes that the government will implement an effective growth strategy soon," said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities. With the April-June earnings seasons around the corner, analysts said expectations of higher profits were growing as the yen weakened, improving export earnings. The dollar gained 0.9 percent to 100.44 yen on Thursday, having reached a session peak of 100.65 yen. The Nikkei has dropped around 7 percent since the year's peak on May 23, but is still up 43 percent this year. > Dow, S&P 500 end at all-time highs on earnings, Bernanke > Yen slips ahead of Japan poll, U.S. data lifts dollar > U.S. bond prices fall on upbeat factory, claims data > Gold rebounds on crude oil gains, short-covering > US crude hits 16-mth high above $108 STOCKS TO WATCH --Sharp Corp Sharp plans to raise about 100 billion yen ($994 million) through a share sale, Kyodo reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. --SoftBank Corp SoftBank offered to pay $8.5 billion to acquire Universal Music but its owner, French media and entertainment conglomerate Vivendi, rejected the bid, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.