Nikkei rises to fresh 15-year high as Greece debt deal looks more likely
* Nikkei inch away to hit 18-year high * Banks higher on their attractive valuations - trader * Toshiba underperforms after report saying accounting trouble spread to other ops By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose to a fresh 15-year high on Tuesday morning as hopes grew that a deal would be reached to avoid Greece defaulting on loans, lifting recently fallen stocks such as banks. The Nikkei share average was up 1.4 percent at 20,715.54 in midmorning trade after spiking earlier to 20,739.90, the highest since 2000. If it trades above its 2000 peak of 20,833.21, it will be the highest since June 1997. European shares soared overnight, expecting some progress on Greece's debt crisis. European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired an emergency summit of leaders of the 19-nation currency bloc, called the Greek proposals "a positive step forward". He said the aim was to have the Eurogroup finance ministers approve a cash-for-reform package on Wednesday evening and put it to euro zone leaders for final endorsement on Thursday morning. Buoyed by the move, investors are buying back Japanese shares after the Japanese market posted a third weekly loss last week. "The majority of market participants are trading under the optimistic scenario that the Greek problems will be resolved," said Masashi Oda, senior investment officer at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank. "Foreigners are buying again." He also said that foreign investors are especially buying banks on bargain hunting due to the banks' attractive valuations as they are trading below their book values. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 2.5 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group gained 2.1 percent and Mizuho Financial Group jumped 4.6 percent. Exporters are also higher, with Toyota Motor Corp gaining 1.5 percent, Honda Motor Co adding 2.1 percent and Tokyo Electron Led rising 3.4 percent. On the other hand, Toshiba Corp underperformed, being flat after falling as low as 1.7 percent to a 3-1/2 week low hit by a report saying its accounting problems extended to the company's chip and PC businesses. Toshiba has said inappropriate book-keeping likely led to profits being overstated by about 54 billion yen ($438 million) in recent years. "Most active funds have cut back on the stock, but passive funds still hold it. Unless the amount of damage balloons from the already-announced level, share price impact may be limited," said Fumio Matsumoto, a fund manager at Dalton Capital Japan. The broader Topix rose 1.5 percent to 1,672.92, with all of its 33 subsectors in positive territory. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 1.5 percent to 15,104.77. (Editing by Eric Meijer)
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