Nikkei hits fresh 15-year high on weak yen, upbeat U.S. data
* Nikkei rises 2.4 pct for the week * Japan Display soars on report it is considering building a plant * Banks languish on profit-taking By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose for a third day to hit a fresh 15-year high on Friday morning, with market sentiment getting a boost from a weaker yen following robust U.S. jobless data. The Nikkei gained 0.5 percent to 18,346.59, after rising as high as 18,360.92, the highest level since May 2000. It marked the third straight winning session for the benchmark, which has added 2.4 percent so far in the week. U.S. weekly jobless numbers released overnight proved better than expected, diffusing some of the pressure on the dollar that followed dovish-sounding minutes from the last Federal Reserve policy meeting. "Now the market is relieved again on hopes for an earlier U.S. rate hike," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities, noting that a stronger U.S. economy is beneficial for Japan. The United States is a major export market for Japanese manufacturers. However, some overbought signs in the Japanese market suggested profit-taking is possible in the near term, Kuramochi said. The toraku ratio, or up-down ratio, stood at 131.65. A level above 120 signals an overbought market. The ratio is calculated by dividing the 25-day moving average of stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section that gained by the 25-day average of those that fell. The dollar traded at 119.05 yen, compared to Thursday's low of 118.42 yen, lifting exporters and index-heavy stocks. Toyota Motor Corp gained 1.1 percent and Nissan Motor Co added 1.0 percent. Fanuc Corp and SoftBank Corp each added 1.3 percent. The highlight was Japan Display Inc, which soared as much as 14 percent to a more than four-month high after Nikkan Kogyo newspaper reported that it is considering building a new plant in Ishikawa, central Japan, that would supply screen panels for Apple devices. Japan Display later said in a statement the report was not based on any statement released by the company. On the negative ledger, banking shares lost ground on profit-taking. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropped 0.5 percent and Mizuho Financial Group shed 0.4 percent after rising recently. The broader Topix gained 0.3 percent to 1,499.41. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also rose 0.3 percent to 13,598.01, climbing for a tenth day. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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