TOKYO, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks rose on Thursday morning after soft economic data and weakness on Wall Street bolstered views that the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep putting off hiking interest rates and investors bought buy defensive shares.
The Nikkei share average was up 0.8 percent to 18,029.21 at the mid-day break.
Market participants cautioned that the rally was largely built on investors moving into defensive stocks in response to overnight losses on Wall Street. The Dow fell 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq 0.3 percent.
"It's not a very healthy recovery when pharmaceuticals are leading the charge," said Nicholas Smith, a strategist at CLSA. "Investors are picking up defensives and pretty expensive defensives at that."
The Topix subindex for pharmaceuticals gained 2.3 percent as investors moved out of cyclicals that had been bought during recent bouts of short-covering. Kyowa Hakko Kirin rose 4.8 percent and Daiichi Sankyo Co shares climbed 4.4 percent.
Japan's steel sector, which tumbled 4.5 percent on Wednesday, bounced back 1 percent during morning trading. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal rose 0.7 percent while JFE Holdings gained 1.3 percent.
Steel has been one of the Nikkei's top performing sectors since late September and traders said it's remained active because of short-covering that has resulted in big price moves.
The broader Topix rose 0.9 percent to end the morning session at 1,483.88 while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 0.9 percent to 13,285.69. (Editing by Richard Borsuk)