Nikkei rises to near 3-week high after ECB's stimulus plan
* ECB soothes mkt; oil prices key to euro zone til March-economist * For the week, Nikkei has risen 3.7 pct * Yaskawa jumps after raising profit, dividend forecasts By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose to a near three-week high on Friday morning as risk sentiment was buoyed after the European Central Bank unveiled a bond-buying scheme to help revive the region's economy and stave off deflation. The Nikkei gained 0.9 percent to 17,488.10 in mid-morning trade, after climbing as high as 17,532.06 earlier, the highest level since Jan. 5. For the week, the Nikkei has risen 3.7 percent. ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank would embark on a quantitative easing programme which, together with existing schemes, will pump 60 billion euros a month into the euro zone economy from this March until September next year. The ECB programme aims to buoy the flagging euro zone economy and stave off deflation. "The decision was clearly positive," said Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Amundi Japan. "But we can't be overly optimistic until March." Between now and March, when the programme will be embarked upon, oil prices will be key to the region's economy, he said. "If inflation expectations fade out before March due to weak oil prices, it would become challenging to pull the region out of deflation," Yoshino said. On Friday, most sectors were in positive territory. Bellwether exporters were in demand, with Toyota Motor Corp , Honda Motor Co <7267.T. and Sony Corp rising between 1.1 percent-3.0 percent. Japanese corporate earnings results were also in focus. Yaskawa Electric Corp soared 4.5 percent to 1,552 yen, the highest since Jan. 5 after the company raised its net profit forecast to 23.5 billion yen from 22.5 billion yen for the year ending March. It also raised its annual dividend forecast to 20 yen/share from 18 yen/share. Index-heavy stocks also rose, with SoftBank Corp advancing 2.7 percent and Fast Retailing Co adding 1.8 percent. The broader Topix gained 0.8 percent to 1,401.14 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.8 percent to 12,731.07. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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