* Nikkei hits 9-mth peak at one point
* Nikkei could reach 11,000 in Feb -analyst
By Ayai Tomisawa and Antoni Slodkowski
TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average extended gains to hit a nine-month high on Monday, helped by a fall in the U.S. jobless rate, a weaker yen against the dollar and after generally strong Japanese corporate earnings reports last week.
The unemployment rate in the world's largest economy fell to a 21-month low in January, bolstering hopes for a sustained recovery and helping the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC reach a 3-year high, although fewer jobs than expected were added. [ID:nN0366997]
Buying on Monday centred on major exporters' shares after the dollar gained against the yen JPY= on the back of Friday's jobs data and as many high-tech companies posted stronger earnings than expected last week.
At 0612 GMT the dollar traded at 82.22 yen, compared with 81.58 yen in Asian trade on Friday.
"The results numbers were strong, but the real reason why investors were encouraged was the long-term growth prospects presented by many companies," said Mitsuo Shimizu, deputy general manager at Cosmo Securities.
Better-than-expected results or annual guidance from the likes of Sony Corp (6758.T), Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) and Softbank Corp (9984.T) lifted their shares on Friday.
"Foreign buying seems to be continuing. Depending on how many companies are raising their full-year forecasts, the Nikkei may rise as high as 11,000 this month," said Masanaga Kono, chief strategist at Amundi Japan.
The benchmark Nikkei .N225 ended up 0.5 percent or 48.52 points at 10,592.04, after earlier hitting 10,644.21, its highest level since May 6.
The broader Topix .TOPX added 0.5 percent to 940.43.
With worries over inflation and more tightening measures prompting global investors to shift funds from emerging markets into developed economies the Nikkei has gained 3.8 percent so far in 2011. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX has added 4.2 percent, while Asian stocks outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS have advanced 0.7 percent.
Market players said large buy orders placed by foreign investors in the cash market were also detected on Monday, a sign of their renewed interest in laggard Japanese equities.
"Hopes for more restructuring, and firms joining forces in overcrowded industries after last week's mega-merger in the steel sector, are also helping the mood today," said Hideyuki Ishiguro, a supervisor in the investment strategy section of Okasan Securities.
Nippon Steel Corp (5401.T) and Sumitomo Metal Industries 5405.T said last Thursday they will merge to create the world's second-largest steelmaker, enabling them to better fend off Asian rivals. The news sent their shares and others in the sector sharply higher on Friday. [ID:nTOE71202T]
Okasan Securities' Ishiguro said other Japanese firms may make similar moves in the next few months as they concentrate on consolidation and restructuring. In particular, the electronics sector faces cutthroat competition from Korean rivals, he said.
Credit Saison (8253.T) surged 8.7 percent to 1,594 yen after it raised its outlook for the year to March 31, while market sources also cited Morgan Stanley Mitsubishi UFJ Securities' upgrade of its rating on the stock to "overweight" from "equal-weight".
The company raised its 2010/11 net profit outlook to 16.5 billion yen ($200 million) on Friday from the previous forecast of 12.0 billion yen due to signs of decreasing claims by borrowers for overcharged interest.
Ebara Corp (6361.T) surged 14 percent to 450 yen after it hiked its full-year outlook for the year ending in March.
The industrial pump maker said on Friday it now expects an operating profit of 26.0 billion yen, compared with a previously forecast 20.0 billion yen.
The market is waiting for earnings on Tuesday from Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), the world's biggest automaker, which appears set to post the biggest drop in October-December profits among Japan's top car makers as its reliance on exports means it is hurt by a stronger yen.
Volume was moderate, with 2.16 billion shares changing hands on the Tokyo stock exchange's first section, in line with last week's daily average volume of 2.18 billion. A total of 1,164 shares advanced and 372 declined. ($1=82.17 Yen) (Additional reporting by Tokyo newsroom; Editing by Michael Watson)