Nikkei gains on signs of U.S. resilience, but set for weekly loss
* Electric power shares benefit from falling oil prices * Canon hits 1-1/2 year high on dividend increase * Nikkei on course for weekly loss By Thomas Wilson TOKYO, Dec 12(Reuters) - Japanese stocks rose on Friday as Wall Street advanced on strong retail sales, raising hopes for resilience in the U.S. economy that could help offset slowing growth in other major economies. The Nikkei benchmark rose 1.1 percent by 0138 GMT to 17,449.70, on course to snap a three-day losing streak. However, it looked set to post a loss of around 2.6 percent for the week. Canon Inc was a star performer, surging 4.1 percent to touch its highest since May 2013, after an upward revision to its year-end dividend forecast. The upbeat retail sales, added to lower unemployment claims and signs of wage growth to come, suggested that the U.S. economy is well-positioned to weather an expected interest rate increase next year. [ID: nL1N0TV0Y7] "Increasing consumption in the U.S. is a big boost Japanese exporters," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan, Inc. Along with the U.S. data, exporter shares were supported by a weakening yen. The Japanese currency traded around 119.20 against the dollar, moving away from a two-week high of 117.43 hit on Thursday. Toyota Motor Co ticked up 0.5 percent, while Mazda Motor Co and Panasonic Corp jumped 1.9 and 0.4 percent, respectively. Utility stocks gained as U.S. crude prices slipped below $60 a barrel in early Asian trade.. The Tokyo Stock Exchange grouping of electric power stocks gained 1.5 percent, with Kansai Electric Power Co soaring 3.8 percent and Tokyo Electric Power Co <9501.T. advancing 2.5 percent. The speed at which oil prices has plunged has raised deflation concerns across the world. But market participants shrugged off the worries, citing an upside from cheaper energy costs in the form of increased domestic and international consumption. "It's a plus in the long term for the Japanese economy," said Testsuro Ii, president of Commons Asset Management Inc. The broader Topix added 0.7 percent to 1,406.34, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also added 0.7 percent to 12,759.84. (Reporting by Thomas Wilson; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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