Nikkei rises after Fanuc jumps on better investor relations plan
* Market supported by Japan recovery hopes, ECB easing * Fanuc jumps 12 pct on plan to boost dividend, talk to investors * Recent gainers such as pharmaceuticals decline By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO, March 13 (Reuters) - Japanese shares extended gains on Friday as industrial robot maker Fanuc jumped more than 10 percent on a report that it will consider raising its dividend and buying back stock. The market, looking set to log its eight straight weeks of gains based on broad Topix index, was also underpinned by fresh fund inflows unleashed by the European Central Bank's quantitative easing. The Nikkei share average rose 1.3 percent to 19,242.17 points by late morning, a level last seen in 2000, while the broader Topix rose 0.9 percent to 1,560.52, a seven-year high. So far this year, both the Nikkei and the Topix are up more than 10 percent. The Nikkei's outperformance is entirely due to 12 percent gains in Fanuc, which has a disproportionately high weighting in the Nikkei. The company, known for its less-than-amicable stance towards investor relations, is considering dividend hikes and seeks better relations with investors, the Nikkei business daily reported. Fanuc's about-turn could boost investors' appetite for Japanese shares as a successful case of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to improve corporate governance and return on equities at Japanese companies. "Fanuc hasn't had dialogue with investors, with its strong belief that a manufacturer should focus on manufacturing and should not indulge in financial techniques. But its stance to ignore investors was starting look extreme as time changes," said Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities. Japanese shares have been also supported by expectations that the country is one of major winners from the fall in oil prices. But what is amplifying their gains are floods of liquidity from the European Central Bank as it started quantitative easing this week. Indeed the market's rally began in the week when the ECB announced its bond buying plan in late January. "German and Italian shares are up about 20 percent on the ECB so far this year while U.S. shares were almost flat as the Fed is expected to raise rates. And Japanese shares come somewhere in the middle. This tells you all. Its driven by expansion of liquidity," Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. "While Japanese economic sentiment indicators are improving, the recovery in the economy is actually very slow. The rally may continue but I would say risks are building up," he added. In fact, while a broad range of sectors gained on Friday, investors took profits in recent gainers such as pharmaceutical companies, which fell 1.0 percent. The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 rose 0.9 percent. (Editing by Kim Coghill)
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