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Nikkei up on Sumitomo Realty, Aiful weighs

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, Apr 14 (Reuters) The Nikkei average rose 0.20 percent on Friday, helped by a rise in Sumitomo Realty&Development Co. after a brokerage started coverage with a positive rating, while Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. gained after lifting its profit forecast.

Shares of consumer finance firms slid after a newspaper said Japan's financial regulator would punish industry leader Aiful Corp. for coercive loan collection methods.

After the close of trade, Japan's Financial Services Agency ordered the firm to suspend business at all its 1,700 outlets for three days as a sanction.

Trade was slower, with many investors holding back due to the Easter holiday weekend in foreign markets and Japan's coming earnings season, analysts said.

''Investors want to see the forecasts for the current fiscal year. They want to see what kind of earnings growth companies are expecting,'' said Toru Otsuka, deputy general manager of investor information at Mizuho Investors Securities.

''Investors are also holding back because of Easter,'' he said.

Many overseas markets are closed for Good Friday.

The Nikkei finished up 34.67 points at 17,233.82. The benchmark booked its first weekly loss for the first time in six weeks, declining 1.9 percent. The broader TOPIX index ended up 0.02 percent at 1,744.07.

Shares of Sumitomo Realty&Development gained 5.1 percent to 3,090 yen after brokerage JP Morgan Securities began coverage of it and three other property firms with an ''overweight'' rating.

The brokerage said Japan's real estate market is looking more capable of steady, sustainable growth.

Fast Retailing, operator of Uniqlo casual-clothing stores, rose 1.2 percent to 11,490 yen after it lifted its full-year forecast to above market expectations.

Shares in Aiful ended the day untraded, hit by a flood of sell orders at 7,200 yen, and down by their daily limit of 1,000 yen.

Rivals Takefuji Corp. Acom Co. Ltd. both declined, with Takefuji falling 3 percent to 7,550 yen and Acom losing 3.9 percent to 6,860 yen.

EARNINGS AHEAD With earnings results due later this month, many investors are beginning to focus on whether Japanese equities are reasonably valued after their recent push to multi-year highs.

That could be one of the most important questions in the Tokyo market at the moment, said Andrew Millward, a fund manager at Henderson Global Investors Japan K.K.

''The market is probably going to be limited in terms of appreciation to the kind of earnings growth that we'll see from companies,'' he said.

''So the (price-to-earnings) ratio will stay the same, but the market should appreciate roughly by the amount corporate earnings are growing.'' Millward estimated earnings growth at around 9 percent for the current year. A similar gain in the Nikkei would put the benchmark just under 18,800.

Elsewhere, shares of Star Micronics Co. Ltd. jumped 8.4 percent to 2,505 yen after brokerage Goldman Sachs started coverage of the precision-equipment maker with an ''outperform'' rating and placed the stock on its current investment list.

Shares of Megachips Corp. finished the day flooded with buy orders at 2,150 yen, up 16.5 percent from the previous session's close.

The company said on Friday it has begun mass production of chips that allow mobile phones to receive digital television broadcasts.

Trade was the slowest in three weeks, with just 1.47 billion shares changing hands on the Tokyo exchange's first section.

Decliners beat advancers 865 to 667.

REUTERS PV PM1432

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