Nikkei tops 16,300 for first time since Feb 15

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TOKYO, Mar 13 (Reuters) The Nikkei average on Monday rose more than 1 percent and topped 16,300 for the first time since Feb. 15 as brokers such as Nomura Holdings added to the gains they made last week.

Optimism about the economy was bolstered after the Bank of Japan ended its five-year-old ultra-easy monetary policy last week, while gains in U.S. stocks after a government report showing stronger U.S. job market growth than expected in February helped shares in exporters.

''The market is moving away from the boxed range it was in prior to the BOJ's move,'' said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities.

Government data released before the open showed Japan's economy grew 1.3 percent in October-December from the previous quarter, a slight downward revision from the government's initial estimate. But the revised gross domestic product growth data for the fourth quarter was in line with the market consensus.

The Nikkei was up 1.16 percent or 187.29 points at 16,302.92 as of 0053 GMT after earlier rising as high as 16,355.85.

The broader TOPIX index was up 1.31 percent at 1,668.81.

Rakuten Securities' Fukunaga said there were two opposite views in the market before the central bank on Feb. 9 changed its monetary policy --- one was that higher interest rates would undermine the economy and the other was that even with higher rates, little impact was likely given the expected growth in corporate earnings.

''Now we know that those with the latter view have won,'' he said.

Nomura, Japan's No.1 brokerage, was up 2.6 percent at 2,380 yen and rival Daiwa Securities Group Inc. was up 1.6 percent at 1,433 yen.

Resona Holdings Inc. gained 1.5 percent to 404,000 yen after a weekend report Japan's fourth-biggest bank plans to repay some of the money it owes the government by listing a regional bank subsidiary.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. rose 2 percent to 7,190 yen.

Japan's third-biggest auto maker said on Saturday that the company was looking to build a new domestic plant -- its first in 30 years -- mainly to manufacture advanced powertrains as it aims to raise its cars' fuel economy.

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