Nikkei bounces off 6-week low, economic uncertainty caps gains
* Nikkei rises 1.8 pct, Topix up 2 pct on receding Ukraine fears * Uncertainty ahead of Apr 1 sales tax hike casts shadow * Retail investors chase high dividend plays * Tokyo Electron gains on upbeat view on semiconductors * Nikkei still on track for first quarterly loss in six By Tomo Uetake TOKYO, March 24 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average climbed on Monday morning, bouncing off from a six-week low on the back of a tentative recovery in risk appetite, though concerns about the Japanese economic outlook kept gains in check. The benchmark Nikkei average rose 1.8 percent to 14,484.06 by the midday break, after a market holiday on Friday. It was still below its 200-day moving average near 14,505. The gains were in line with rise in global shares due to easing concerns over the Ukraine crisis, as investors see diminishing chances of a major military confrontation between Moscow and the West. Still, the Nikkei stood not far from a six-week low near 14,200 hit last week and was down 11 percent since the start of this year, likely heading for its first quarterly decline in 1-1/2 years. "Although the first spring storm of the year hit Tokyo area last week, spring has yet to come for the Japanese stock markets," said Masatoshi Kikuchi, pan-Asian chief equity strategist at Mizuho Securities. "It'll be difficult for the Nikkei to rise to 16,000 by the fiscal year-end but I still expect the benchmark will reach 16,500 yen by the end of June, buoyed by the prime minister's growth strategy due in June and solid corporate earnings," he added. One reason behind Tokyo shares' underperformance was concerns about the impact of a planned sales tax hike on April 1, said Stefan Worrall, director of equity cash sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. "Market participants need to recalibrate, particularly when there is a such intense uncertainty over the direction of the Japanese market towards the end of fiscal year (on March 31)." "There's a big focus on if the BOJ is willing or ready to undertake further monetary policy actions...a lot of clients continue to expect or hope that it occurs." Stocks offering high dividends or other shareholder benefits enjoyed a decent bounce before the dividend record date on Wednesday, with Eisai Co Ltd, ANA Holdings Inc and Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd up between 3.2 and 4.4 percent. Tokyo Electron, a manufacturer of chip-making machines, jumped 5.4 percent, supported by growing optimism for the semiconductor industry following news of strong capital spending plans by makers of computer chips. Other notable gainers include Yamato Holdings, which gained 3.5 percent after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the delivery company will tie up with China Post to launch a delivery service in China. The market took soft Chinese manufacturing data in its stride for now. The flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to an eight-month low of 48.1 in March from February's final reading of 48.5 as output and new orders both weakened. The broader Topix advanced 2 percent to 1,169.32, with trading volume at 55 percent of full daily average for the past 90 days. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, a recently introduced gauge comprised of companies with a high return on equity and robust corporate governance, added 1.9 percent to 10,586.35. (Editing by Eric Meijer)
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