March 14, 2019 / 3:06 AM / 2 months ago

Nikkei rises as SoftBank surges on Uber self-driving investment hopes

* SoftBank adds hefty 45 positive points to Nikkei

* Samco tumbles after cutting earnings forecast

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, March 14 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei rose on Thursday morning driven by gains in index-heavyweight SoftBank Group while investors bought futures as global risk issues such as a no-deal Brexit receded.

The Nikkei share average rose 0.7 percent to 21,431.28 by the midmorning break after surging to 21,522.75 earlier. It fell 1 percent the previous day.

SoftBank Group Corp soared 4.6 percent to 11,160 yen, the highest since early October fuelled by news it is mulling an investment in Uber’s self-driving unit. It added 45 hefty positive points to the Nikkei index.

A group of investors led by SoftBank and Toyota Motor Corp are in talks to invest $1 billion or more into Uber Technologies Inc’s self-driving vehicle unit, which would value the firm at between $5 billion and $10 billion, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

SoftBank’s surge helped the Nikkei outperform the Topix , which was up 0.4 percent at 1,597.92.

Other positive factors for the Japanese market included futures buying.

“Foreign investors are seen buying futures as risk sentiment recovered as worries in the global market have faded,” said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities, citing the lower risk of a no-deal UK exit from the European Union following a late-night vote.

The British parliament on Wednesday rejected leaving the bloc without a deal, further weakening Prime Minister Theresa May and paving the way for a vote that could delay Brexit until at least the end of June.

Also adding to positive sentiment was firmer U.S. stocks helped by a rebound in Boeing shares while fresh economic data strengthened the U.S. Federal Reserve’s patient stance on future interest rate hikes.

Producer prices barely rose in February, resulting in the smallest annual increase in more than 1-1/2 years, yet another indication of benign inflation.

Futures demand lifted other index-heavy names such as Fast Retailing, Fanuc Corp and FamilyMart UNY Holdings, which gained 1.2 percent, 2.1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

On the other hand, electronic parts manufacturing equipment maker Samco Inc tumbled 9 percent after the company cut its net profit forecast to 350 million yen from 640 million yen hit by weak orders for chip equipment. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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