July 4, 2019 / 3:08 AM / 14 days ago

Nikkei tracks Wall St higher, hopes for U.S. rate cuts lift mood

* Nitori soars after reporting higher sales in latest quarter

* Shares of shippers rally on rising freight charges

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, July 4 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei rose on Thursday morning, tracking gains Wall Street made on expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve would start cutting interest rates after some indicators signalled a slowdown in the economy.

The Nikkei share average was up 0.3% to 21,699.93 at the midday break. With U.S. financial markets closed for a national holiday on Thursday, trading will likely be thin, analysts said.

Data on Wednesday showed the U.S. trade deficit jumped to a five-month high in May while there was a slowdown in services sector activity in June.

The reports come on the heels of data on housing, manufacturing, business investment and consumer spending that point to slowing economic growth in the second quarter.

The ADP National Employment Report, which comes ahead of the Labor Department’s more comprehensive monthly nonfarm payrolls data due on Friday, showed U.S. private employers added 102,000 jobs in June, well below economists’ expectations.

“Investors are looking for hints from the ADP data for a step that the Fed will take. But they want to see U.S. jobs data before they take positions,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “They are focused on how the yen will move after the jobs report as well.”

Thursday’s winners included shippers, which rallied as the Baltic Dry Index, or freight charges, jumped 7.1% to a level not seen since October 2018. Mitsui OSK Lines gained 2.1% and Kawasaki Kisen surged 4.2%.

Nitori Holdings soared 4% after the discount furniture store operator said sales rose 6.1% to 167.3 billion yen for the March-May quarter. Its operating profit was 30.4 billion yen, about the same as the previous year and in line with market expectations.

The broader Topix rose 0.5% to 1,587.68. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones 1,496 to 539. (Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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