March 22, 2018 / 2:42 AM / a month ago

Nikkei rises in choppy trade; pension fund buying seen

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average rose on Thursday morning in choppy trade despite the yen’s rise, with traders seeing pension funds and retail investors scooping up recently battered stocks with attractive valuations.

The Nikkei rose 0.9 percent to 21,567.27 in midmorning trade, after opening a tad lower. Japanese markets were closed on Wednesday for a national holiday.

Investors bought shares in export-focused firms, as the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday but appeared less hawkish than anticipated, forecasting just two more hikes for 2018 in its first policy meeting under new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

Still, the dollar was down 0.3 percent at 105.715 yen

With Japan’s end of the fiscal year looming, the Government Pension Investment Fund and other funds were likely buyers as the Nikkei has become cheap, with its price/earnings ratio falling to around 12, traders said.

They also said retail investors, who are attracted to income gains through dividends, are dismissing the depressing influence of a strong yen for now.

Canon Inc rose 1.9 percent, Daikin Industries soared 1.5 percent, Sumco and Sony both gained 1.7 percent and Shiseido Co surged 2.5 percent.

On the other hand, banks lost ground, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group falling 0.6 percent and Mizuho Financial Group shedding 0.5 percent.

The broader Topix dropped 0.1 percent to 1,717.47. (Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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