March 15, 2019 / 7:18 AM / 2 months ago

Nikkei ends higher as companies relying on China demand soar

* Nikkei ends up 2 pct for the week

* Firms with China exposure lead Friday’s gains

* Descente soars after report Itochu raises stake to 40 pct

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei closed higher on Friday as companies with large exposure to China soared on Beijing’s commitment to boosting economic growth, while investors also saw signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

There was little impact on the market from the Bank Of Japan’s decision to keep monetary policy steady.

The Nikkei share average ended 0.8 percent higher at 21,450.85, with the index gaining 2.0 percent for the week.

China’s economy is facing additional downward pressure but Beijing will not let economic growth slip out of a reasonable range, Premier Li Keqiang told reporters on Friday at end of the annual parliament meeting.

Separately, Xinhua news agency said on Friday that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with the two sides making further substantive progress on trade talks.

“The market mood is improving as worries about a global economic slowdown are receding,” said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief executive of Investrust.

The news from China boosted Japanese firms with large exposure to the world’s second largest economy.

Fanuc Corp rose 1.4 percent, while Komatsu Ltd gained 1.8 percent and Yaskawa Electric Corp jumped 4.2 percent.

Elsewhere, Descente soared 2.7 percent after the Nikkei reported that trading house Itochu Corp had raised its stake in the sportswear maker to 40 percent from about 30 percent.

The broader Topix gained 0.9 percent to 1,602.63, with all but two of its 33 subsectors in positive territory. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones 1,434 to 634. (Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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