July 18, 2013 / 2:21 AM / in 4 years

Nikkei hits 8-week high after Bernanke says QE timing is flexible

* Nikkei rises 0.7 pct, Topix up 0.4 pct
    * SoftBank, Toshiba, Sharp jump

    By Tomo Uetake
    TOKYO, July 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose
to an eight-week high on Thursday morning after Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke said the timing of when the U.S. central
bank would begin winding down its stimulus was flexible. 
    In mid-morning trade, the benchmark Nikkei rose 0.7
percent to 14,712.12, a level not seen since May 24, while the
broader Topix added 0.4 percent to 1,218.46.
    Bernanke's comments helped Wall Street make modest gains and
slightly weakened the yen. The Japanese currency was last
quoted at 99.76 yen to the dollar on the EBS platform after
coming close to 99.00 on Wednesday.
    "Neither U.S. stocks nor currency markets reacted to
Bernanke's testimony significantly, which is supporting the
Tokyo market today," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager
at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.
    "There are many investors who want to sell stocks. But with
the Upper House election looming this weekend, they will wait
and see, betting on the possibility of a post-election rally."
    Akino expects that the Nikkei will struggle to post big
gains this week.
    Index heavyweight SoftBank Corp jumped 6.3 percent
after Alibaba Group, a Chinese e-commerce giant in which it has
a stake of about 30 percent, nearly tripled its net income in
the first three months of the year. 
    A fund manager based in Tokyo said short-covering was
supporting the gains. SoftBank's stock price slumped after
Standard & Poor's cut its debt rating two notches to "junk" 
earlier this month. It was the most-traded stock on the main
board by turnover.
    Other notable gainers included Toshiba Corp, which
rose 2.9 percent after the Nikkei business daily said Toshiba
and Elpida Memory Inc plan to invest in capacity expansion as
demand for smartphone chips rises rapidly.
    Sharp Corp advanced 2.5 percent after the Asahi
Shimbun newspaper said the company is expected to post a smaller
operating loss than initially expected for the April-June
quarter, helped by rising sales of solar cells and a weaker yen.
    The benchmark Nikkei has fallen 7.7 percent from this year's
peak of 15,942.60, but is still up 41.5 percent this year.

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