* Nikkei recaptures closely watched 9,800 mark
* Softer yen, Japan capex data boost shares
* Major exporters, bluechips gain
* Softbank up after winning high-speed spectrum
By Mari Saito
TOKYO, March 1 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average was trading near the closely watched 9,800 mark on Thursday, boosted by an unexpected jump in fourth-quarter capital expenditure by Japanese companies, while the softening yen and the European Central Bank's liquidity move underpinned sentiment.
In an encouraging sign of an uptick in demand, Japanese companies increased their capital spending by 7.6 percent in the October-December period, better than the median estimate for a 6.5 percent annual decline.
The benchmark Nikkei gained 0.8 percent to 9,800.55, extending the February rally of 10.5 percent. It managed to recapture the 9,800 level after the previous day's rally to a seven-month intraday high proved unsustainable and the benchmark ended flat.
The broader Topix index was up 0.6 percent at 840.92.
"The capex data was much better than previous estimates and that, combined with the yen which is softer today against the dollar, is prompting buying in all major sectors like financials, autos, machinery and real estate," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities.
The dollar was trading at 81.19 yen, moving back towards a nine-month high of 81.661 yen hit earlier this week.
Among export-oriented bluechips, Toyota Motor Corp gained 1.8 percent in heavy volume, while Sony Corp climbed 2.4 percent and Canon Inc advanced 1.9 percent.
Japan's transportation equipment subindex was the best sectoral performer on the main board and gained 1.8 percent.
Societe General wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday that the yen was near its best levels for a number of years and recommended clients buy a three-month call spread for the Nikkei between 9,750 and 10,750.
"The Nikkei is closely linked with the dollar/yen rate so obviously with the yen trading above 81 yen against the dollar today is a booster for stocks," said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
Miura said the ECB's liquidity operation overnight, although helping to support bullish market sentiment, did not contribute to the Nikkei's gains.
A total of 800 banks grabbed 530 billion euros ($709 billion) at the ECB's offering of cheap three-year funds on Wednesday, slightly more than analysts had expected for the bank's second long-term refinancing operation.
Softbank Corp was up 2.1 percent after it won the coveted 900 Megahertz spectrum for high-speed mobile services as it races to strengthen its network.
U.S. stocks slipped overnight after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy and gave no hint of further easing moves, disappointing investors hoping for a signal of more stimulus. ($1 = 0.7476 euros) (Additional reporting by Dominic Lau; Editing by Edmund Klamann)