Nikkei firms as output data fans optimism for recovery
* Industrial output beats strong expectations * Nikkei could make biggest monthly gains since Nov 2013 * Financial shares leading gains, Orix up By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Tokyo share prices hit a fresh 15-year high on Friday on upbeat Japanese industrial output data, while the market awaited an announcement from the country's biggest pension fund on its latest asset allocations. The Nikkei share average rose 0.3 percent to 18,834.89. On the month, it is up 6.6 percent so far, which if sustained, would be the biggest monthly gain since November 2013. Signs of recovery in exports and outputs, expectations that cheap oil prices will benefit Japanese consumption and companies and hopes of more corporate reforms have been all helping the market. "It seems like there is no reason to sell other than to take profits," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities. Japan's industrial output rose 4.0 percent in January from the previous month, surpassing already strong expectations of 2.7 percent growth. But other data showed Japanese households cut spending more than expected and retail sales for the first time in seven months, highlighting the uneven nature of the economic recovery. Long-battered financial shares have been leading the market's gains this month, partly helped by rising Japanese bond yields, which is expected to help boost interest they earn on lending. Bank shares have surged 16.8 percent so far in February, on course to score its biggest monthly gains since April 2008. On Friday, they were up just 0.1 percent as they were capped by profit-taking. Non-bank lenders gained 2.3 percent on the day, having gained 18.6 percent in February, the largest rise in al most a year and a half. Among them, Orix rose 3.4 percent as it was helped by credit upgrade by Moody's and a new shareholder hospitality programme that could attract more retail investors. Nexon rose 7.9 percent after it the online game maker announced a share buyback plan. The market is now focusing on the release later in the day of the $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund's (GPIF) asset allocation as of end-December. The fund announced in October a plan to boost its domestic holdings to 25 percent of the total, from its previous target of 12 percent, but did not specify a timeframe. "That should give us a greater understanding of the progress they are making towards the new targets that they introduced last year. It will clarify a bit about how much more they may buy and how much they have contributed to this rally as well," said Stefan Worrall, director of equity cash sales at Credit Suisse. The broader Topix gained 0.2 percent and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 rose 0.3 percent. (Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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