* Weaker yen boosts exporters * Strong financial earnings in the U.S. improves sentiment * Chipmakers lose out after Intel disappoints By Sophie Knight TOKYO, Oct 17 Japan's Nikkei share average took a big step up in early trade on Wednesday as the yen eased to a one-month high against the euro and dollar and as Goldman Sachs' impressive revenues helped dampen fears about disappointing earnings. Exporters were given a leg up as the yen hit 103.51 versus the euro after rating agency Moody's stopped short of downgrading Spanish bonds to "junk" status, affirming them at BAA3 in light of the ECB's promise to buy the bonds if needed. "The fact that they didn't drop it is a plus, and the yen is weaker against the dollar as well, which will lend support to the market today," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities. A strong yen has prompted fears of further cuts to earnings forecasts for exporters as it erodes their revenues garnered abroad once repatriated. The weaker yen helped Toyota Motor Corp outperform with a 1.8 percent gain on Wednesday and it was the second-most traded stock on the main board by turnover, while Sony Corp picked up 2.9 percent to a three-week high. Those gains helped the Nikkei climb 1.5 percent to 8,830.84, above its 14-day moving average at 8,741.81, while the broader Topix added 1.3 percent to a 2-1/2-week high of 742.11. Following upbeat earnings from Citigroup Inc in the previous session, Goldman Sachs beat expectations overnight as its revenue more than doubled and it raised its quarterly dividend. The securities sector jumped 2 percent, and even news that Nomura Holdings Inc will have to pay a 300 million yen ($3.8 million) fine for leaking information could not dent its advance of 2.2 percent. "I think that the weakness in the global economy and the expectations of poor earnings were pretty much priced in last week and now we're recovering from that sell-off," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan. "Consensus cooled down quite a lot and now people are realising it might have gone too far." The benchmark dropped 3.7 percent last week, its biggest weekly fall since May, after a stream of profit warnings sparked fears of earnings coming in lower than expected, due to a global slowdown, anti-Japanese sentiment and the robust yen. Yet, several Japanese companies are using the strong yen to their advantage by snapping up foreign firms at reasonable prices, a trend brought into focus by Softbank Corp's $20 billion deal to buy a 70 percent stake in Sprint Nextel Corp , announced this week. The mobile provider, an index heavyweight, added 4.1 percent to extend Tuesday's 9.6 percent rise on CEO Masayoshi Son's assurance that the move would not dilute Softbank shares. The shares dropped 20 percent between Friday and Monday on uncertainty about how the deal would be funded. On Wednesday, major trading house Mitsubishi Corp added 0.8 percent after the Nikkei daily said it would buy a 20 percent stake in Indonesian utility Star Energy for $200 million, aiming to double capacity of a geothermal plant in West Java by 2017. "When the yen is moving in a tight range as it is now, it doesn't matter so much to the companies buying up foreign firms," Otani said. "But for exporters it would really help if it eased a little more and made it up to 79 yen to the dollar," he added. Going against the market, chipmakers sagged after Intel Corp , the world's largest chipmaker, forecast gross margins for the current quarter below expectations. Tokyo Electron Limited, Ibiden Co Ltd and Advantest Corp fell between 0.7 and 3.6 percent.