* Kansai Electric dives on court order to halt reactor operations
* Mining shares outperform on higher oil prices
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, March 10 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei rose on Thursday morning, gaining for the first time in four days as higher oil prices improved investors’ risk appetite, while expectations that the European Central Bank will ease further boded well for Japan’s exports to Europe.
The Nikkei rose 1.2 percent to 16,838.77 in midmorning trade, after falling 2.2 percent in the past three days to hit a one-week low.
The dollar was steady against the yen at 113.26 yen, which helped exporters gain ground. Toyota Motor Corp added 1.4 percent, Honda Motor Co rose 0.9 percent and Nissan Motor Co advanced 1.3 percent.
Mining shares outperformed, with both Inpex Corp and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co rising 2.6 percent after oil prices rose as much as 5 percent on Wednesday.
Some investors also said sentiment was also helped by expectations of more monetary stimulus measures from the ECB later in the day.
“Investors are ‘risk on’ now. The euro’s weakness is indicating something positive out of the ECB meeting, so the market may rise further in the afternoon,” said Hiroaki Mino, director of investment information department at Mizuho Securities.
The ECB is expected to make a 10 basis-point cut to its deposit rate, taking it deeper into negative territory, while some type of adjustment of the central bank’s 1.5 trillion euro asset purchase programme is also expected by markets.
Bucking the strength, the utility sector fell 3.6 percent, and was the only sector in negative territory as Kansai Electric Power Co nosedived 16 percent after a court ordered the company to halt operations at two nuclear reactors at its Takahama plant.
The news dragged down other names in the sector, with Tokyo Electric Power Co shedding 4.3 percent and Kyushu Electric Power Co stumbling 7.1 percent.
The broader Topix gained 1.2 percent to 1,348.75 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 1.3 percent to 12,214.98.
Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore