Japan shares rise on bright outlook for healthcare sector

TOKYO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks rose on Monday as the early approval of a cancer drug and an improved earnings outlook boosted the healthcare sector in thin trade ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Shares in the consumer staples sector also rose due to hope of a pick up in spending during the year-end shopping season.

At 0131 GMT, the Nikkei index was 0.15% higher at 23,852.18. It has risen 19% so far this year.

The healthcare sector extended recent gains after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a drug from Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd and AstraZeneca PLC to treat an advanced form of breast cancer, three months ahead of schedule.

AstraZeneca in March signed a licensing and collaboration deal that committed the British drugmaker to pay up to $6.9 billion to its Japanese partner Daiichi Sankyo.

Sentiment also remained positive after U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated over the weekend that Washington and Beijing are on track to sign a so-called phase one trade deal that will delay additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for large purchases of U.S. agricultural products.

However, some traders said the deal would not eliminate the potential for additional clashes between the United States and China over trade and foreign policy, which could continue to unsettle the global outlook.

There were 87 advancers on the Nikkei index against 131 decliners on Monday.

The largest percentage gainers were Daiichi Sankyo at 4.05%, followed by Internet services company Z Holdings Corp at 3% and medical device maker Olympus Corp at 2.53%.

The largest percentage losses were Nippon Sheet Glass Co Ltd at 6.28%, followed by construction and engineering firm JGC Holdings Corp at 2.88% and shipbuilder Mitsui E&S Holdings Co Ltd at 2.82%.

In mergers-and-acquisitions activity, shares of Unizo Holdings Co Ltd rose 5.31% after the hotel chain on Sunday said it had received a friendly buyout offer from U.S. investment fund Lone Star.

The offer could end a five-month takeover battle involving Blackstone Group Inc, Fortress Investment Group and activist investor Elliott Management.

The broader Topix index fell 0.14% to 1,730.50.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.39 billion, compared with the average of 1.21 billion in the past 30 days.

Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Christopher Cushing