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TOKYO, May 13 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average is set to rise to a new 5-1/2 year high on Monday after some encouraging earnings helped lift U.S. stocks to record highs and as the weakening yen further bolsters exporters. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 14,600 to 14,800 on Monday after rising 2.9 percent to 14,607.54 on Friday, its highest closing level since early January 2008. Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 14,675, up 0.7 percent from the close in Osaka. Analysts said the market should stay upbeat after Japan avoided criticism about recent weakness in the yen at a meeting of Group of Seven finance officials on Saturday. "If international peers criticize the yen's weakness, investors who are on the nervous side could stop chasing the market higher. Now, such concerns are receding," said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities. The yen last traded below 102 against the dollar. > Wall Street ends up, posts third week of gains > Yen slides to 4-1/2-year low vs buoyant dollar > Bond prices fall as dollar jumps versus yen > Gold falls 1.5 pct on dollar gain, posts weekly drop > Oil pares losses on weakening dollar, refinery boost STOCKS TO WATCH --Panasonic Corp Panasonic forecast its operating profit will rise 55 percent in the year to March 31 as it steps back from struggling operations in TVs and other consumer gadgets in favour of selling machinery, components and electronic equipment to other businesses. --Nissan Motor Co Nissan projected a 22.6 percent rise in net income for its current business year as the weakening yen allows Japanese carmakers to cash in overseas profits at more favourable rates. --Softbank Corp Softbank is playing it rough in its attempt to keep Dish Network Corp from breaking up its $20.1 billion deal to take control of Sprint Nextel Corp. --Sharp Corp Sharp, Japan's leading maker of liquid crystal displays, will rely on expanding supplies of small panels to Samsung Electronics Co while still shipping screens to rival Apple Inc, in a bid to raise factory output levels and remain viable, three sources said.