Japan shares end higher as investors eye Fed policy stance

TOKYO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks ended marginally higher on Wednesday on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would reinforce its commitment to keeping rates low at a meeting later in the day.

The Nikkei 225 Index finished trade up 0.09% at 23,475.53, with the telecommunications and healthcare sectors leading gains. The broader Topix rose 0.21% to 1,644.35.

Many investors were on the sidelines ahead of the Fed’s policy statement. While no major change in policy is expected, the central bank is likely to emphasise that interest rates will remain low for an extended period, analysts said.

Meanwhile, Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament’s lower house on Wednesday, becoming Japan’s first new leader in nearly eight years, as he readied a “continuity cabinet” expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup.

The Japanese stock markets had already priced in the formation of a new government as Finance Minister Taro Aso decided to retain his post, according to domestic media, which suggests little change to economic policy.

Market focus was also on the Bank of Japan’s policy decision, due on Thursday, with the central bank expected to leave its monetary easing stance unchanged.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were investment manager SoftBank Group Corp, up 4.64%, followed by drugs maker Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd, which jumped 2.6%.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were automaker Honda Motor Co Ltd, down 2.59% as the yen’s rise to an almost three-week high against the dollar hurt exporters. The second-biggest decliner was Central Japan Railway Co losing 2.35%.

There were 48 advancers in the Nikkei index against 173 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 1.17 billion, compared with the average of 1.14 billion in the past 30 days. (Editing by Devika Syamnath and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)