* Shippers soar on expectation Japan to join TPP talks * Sony jumps on strong smartphone sales, Daiwa's upgrade * Parliament approves new leaders for BOJ By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, March 15 The Nikkei share average rose to a 4-1/2 year high on Friday on growing expectations the central bank will ease monetary policy aggressively under its new leadership. Japan's parliament approved Haruhiko Kuroda as the Bank of Japan's next governor and Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso to serve as the BOJ's two deputy governors. "Approval by the upper house will boost hopes for more decisive and swift policy easing," said Yoshiyuki Kondo, an analyst at Daiwa Securities. Exporters, whose earnings will likely be boosted by a weaker yen on hopes for bolder policy easing, were popular. Companies such as warehouse owners and railroad operators with large land holdings outperformed, helped by expectations that reflationary policy will raise their asset values. The Nikkei gained 0.8 percent to 12,484.63 at the midday break, after earlier reaching 12,502.81, the highest level since early September 2008. Also lifting sentiment for stocks such as shippers was Japan's expected participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations. Media reports said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to announce details later Friday. The marine transport sector was the best sectoral performer, with Mitsui OSK Lines jumping 5.1 percent, and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha adding 5.0 percent. Among exporters, Toyota Motor Corp gained 1.2 percent, Honda Motor Co added 1.9 percent and Nikon Corp climbed 2.2 percent. Sony Corp soared 6.9 percent and was the board's most traded stock by turnover after Daiwa Securities raised its rating to 'buy' from 'neutral,' saying that the company could turn profitable in fiscal 2014 due to strong smartphone sales. The Nikkei said that the Xperia Z, a new smartphone model Sony launched last month, was the top-selling model in Japan for four straight weeks. Exporters have led the Nikkei's gains this year on Abe's push to ease monetary policy and expand fiscal spending to pull the country out of persistent deflation. The Nikkei has outperformed its global peers, rising 20 percent this year compared with the Dow Jones Industrial Average's 11 percent and the FTSEurofirst 300 index's 6.5 percent. "Investors have bought overall exporters for the past few months. But they will be selective, and companies with competitive advantages in the overseas market will likely rise further from now such as automakers," said Masatoshi Sato, senior strategist at Mizuho Securities. Sony attracted buying as the Xperia smartphone "seems to be boosting sentiment in its shares," he said. Warehouse stocks rose on continuing expectations for the government's reflationary policy, while Abe's likely decision to participate in the TPP talks sparked hopes for higher storage costs to handle imported products. Inui Warehouse Co increased 2.3 percent, Shibusawa Warehouse Co gained 2.6 percent and Mitsui-Soko Co rose 2.2 percent. "Reflation stocks such as these warehouses and real estate will probably continue to rise before the release of land prices by the government next week. People started seeing office rents in the Tokyo metropolitan area rising, and they want to see how much land prices are rising as well," Daiwa's Kondo said. East Japan Railway Co added 1.1 percent, while Odakyu Electric Railway Co gained 1.7 percent. Gains in U.S. and European stocks also bolstered investor risk appetite, analysts said. "We see several signs of a little bit of overheating in the Japanese market, but strength in the overseas market serves as a tailwind to Japanese equities," said Hiroichi Nishi, an assistant general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities. The Nikkei traded 6.5 percent above its 25-day moving average. A level above 5 percent suggests that the market is overbought. The Dow Jones industrial average ended at another record high, helped by data showing U.S. jobless benefit claims fell.