TOKYO, Jan 28 Japan's Nikkei share average is likely to take a leap at Monday's open after the yen weakened over the weekend and U.S. stocks gained strongly, although investors will be watching local earnings results for cues to push higher. Market players said the Nikkei was likely to trade between 10,900 to 11,050 on Monday after the yen hit 91 versus the dollar on Friday and 122.77 against the euro, spurring interest in Japanese exporters whose revenues are set to expand once repatriated. Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 10,970, up 0.4 percent from the close in Osaka of 10,930. "The potent mix of 'Abenomics' and strong risk appetite abroad is continuing to soften the yen, which means investors will still be buying stocks," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities. U.S. stocks finished strongly on Friday, with the S&P 500 striking a five-year high and hopping over the 1,500 mark, after 68 percent of the 147 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far exceeded expectations, above the 62 percent average since 1994. "However, it may be difficult for investors to move before they see how much the weaker yen will improve Japaneses companies' performance," Doshida added. With Japan's earning season getting into full swing this week, investors are hoping that the yen's more than 10 percent fall against the dollar in the past two months will improve Japanese companies' forecasts for the year to come. For industrial robots maker Fanuc Ltd, however, which cut its operating forecast for the year ending March by almost 20 percent to 178 billion yen ($2 billion) after the bell on Friday, the yen effect looks to be outweighed by a slowdown in China and the ongoing EU debt crisis in the short-term. Fanuc also said its operating profit for the nine months ended December had dropped 13.4 percent from the previous year. The Nikkei stormed up 2.9 percent on Friday to 10,926.65 to log its 11th straight week of gains, its longest winning streak since 1971, as the softer yen continues to pique appetite for Japanese exporters. The index is close to a 32-month high hit on Jan. 15. The benchmark has rallied about 25 percent since mid-November, when then-incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began calling for a weaker currency, aggressive monetary easing and ambitious fiscal policy to reinvigorate the Japanese economy. > S&P 500 vaults 1,500 as Wall St extends rally > Euro gains as bank fears ease; yen continues slide > Yields hit 3-week highs on euro zone recovery signs > Gold posts biggest weekly drop in five weeks > Profit-taking leaves oil flat after strong week STOCKS TO WATCH - MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL HOLDINGS CORP Mitsubishi Chemical is in final talks to seal a long-term contract to provide coke to Tata Steel Ltd, part of India's largest conglomerate, the Nikkei business daily said, after Mitsubishi's contract with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp ends. -SHIN-ETSU CHEMICAL CO Shin-Etsu Chemical's operating profit for the three quarters ended December likely grew for the third straight year to more than 120 billion yen ($1.32 billion) as its U.S. subsidiary enjoys strong demand, the Nikkei Shimbun said on Saturday. -HITACHI TRANSPORT SYSTEM LTD Hitachi Transport's operating profit for the nine months ended December probably dropped around 20 percent from the previous year to just under 15 billion yen ($165 million) due to poor demand for car parts, the Nikkei newspaper said. -ADVANTEST CORP Advantest's operating profit for the year ending March will likely undershoot expectations as sales for Apple's iPhone 5 slow, the Nikkei newspaper said, adding that Advantest likely made an operating loss of around 2 billion yen ($22 million) in the quarter ending December.
Our top photos from the past week.