Nikkei edges up on Wall St, weak yen; financials track U.S. counterparts
* Financial shares top performers on strong U.S. counterparts * Market awaits Yellen's comment on rates By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, June 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average edged up on Wednesday morning, benefitting from gains on Wall Street and a weaker yen which drove exporters higher. The Nikkei rose 0.3 percent to 15,023.83 in midmorning trade after advancing a similar amount on Tuesday. It is nearing a three-month high of 15,206 hit last week. Exporters were stronger after the dollar reached a one-week high of 102.25, with Panasonic Corp soaring 2.9 percent, Nissan Motor Co adding 0.5 percent and Tokyo Electron Ltd gaining 1.2 percent. A weaker yen lifts Japanese companies' competitiveness abroad as well as their overseas profits when repatriated. Japanese financial stocks also rose in sympathy with their U.S. counterparts after U.S. inflation data showed the consumer price index increased 0.4 percent, double what economists had expected. Japan's banking and securities sectors, which have underperformed the market by falling 10 percent and 16 percent respectively this year, were top performers on the day. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group gained 1.2 percent, Nomura Holdings jumped 2.1 percent and Daiwa Securities Group surged 1.6 percent. The financial sector suffered double-digit declines since the beginning of the year, compared with the Nikkei's 7.8 percent loss. The U.S. data came before the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting ends later on Wednesday, which will be followed by Fed Chair Janet Yellen's news conference. "Investors may not take large positions before they hear Yellen's comments. The market is cautiously focused on any mentions on the U.S. rates," said Takuya Takahashi, an analyst at Daiwa Securities. He expects the Japanese market to gain further traction if if her comments trigger a rise in the dollar/yen. Over the medium term, the Nikkei could head towards 16,000, Takahashi said. The broader Topix gained 0.3 percent to 1,242.35, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.3 percent to 11,306.97. (Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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