Japanese stocks nudge higher amid cautious optimism about trade talks

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese shares edged higher on Friday as cautious optimism about the prospect of the United States and China reaching a trade agreement lifted investor risk appetite.

FILE PHOTO: Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

At 0150 GMT the Nikkei index rose 0.61 % to 23,178.77 as exporters in the IT sector and the industrial equipment sector paced gains.

China is pushing to reach a preliminary trade agreement with the United States as both sides keep communication channels open, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday, in an attempt to allay fears talks might be unravelling.

China has invited top U.S. trade negotiators for a new round of face-to-face talks in Beijing, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, on hopes the talks can take place before next Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Completion of a phase one deal could slide into next year, trade experts and people close to the White House told Reuters previously, as Beijing presses for more extensive rollback of U.S. tariffs that have weakened its exports and slowed its economy.

For the week, the Nikkei was on course for a 0.77% decline, its biggest since Oct. 4, highlighting concern about U.S.-China relations in the long term.

There were 173 advancers on the Nikkei index against 41 decliners on Friday.

The largest percentage gainers in the index were Internet services company Z Holdings Corp 4689.T up 3.95%, followed by materials manufacturer Asahi Kasei Corp 3407.T gaining 2.95% and Kobe Steel Ltd 5406.T up by 2.36%.

Formerly known as Yahoo Japan, Z Holdings got a boost because it will merge with messaging app operator Line Corp 3938.T. Shares in Line were unchanged on Friday.

The largest percentage losses in the index were online commerce company Rakuten Inc 4755.T down 1.86%, followed by Nippon Light Metal Holdings Co Ltd 5703.T losing 1.76%, and Suzuki Motor Corp 7269.T down by 1.4%. The Topix index .TOPX rose 0.53% to 1,698.25, on course for a 0.1% weekly gain.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's main board .TOPX was 0.47 billion, compared to the average of 1.27 billion in the past 30 days.

Editing by Sam Holmes