April 25, 2019 / 7:19 AM / 4 months ago

Nikkei rises to 4-1/2-month high as earnings better than feared

* Investors had already expected weak earnings

* Hitachi Construction, Kao jump 5 pct

* Selling ahead of long holiday subsiding

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei rose to 4-1/2-month high on Thursday as a bevy of corporate earnings turned out to be less bad than some investors had feared and selling ahead of the long holiday eased.

Some market players said sentiment was supported after the Bank of Japan said it would consider a scheme to lend some of its massive ETFs (exchange traded funds) holdings and pledged to keep current low rates at least until early 2020.

The Nikkei share average rose 0.48 percent to 22,307.58, its highest close since early December. The Topix rose 0.51 percent to 1,620.28.

Hitachi Construction Machinery jumped 4.9 percent on its earnings announcement.

While the construction equipment maker forecast a fall of 26 percent in its operating profit, investors rushed to buy as the company’s foreign exchange assumption is conservative, with the dollar seen at 100 yen, more than 10 percent above current levels.

Kao Corp, maker of diapers, skin care and other cosmetic goods, rose 5.3 percent even as it reported a 5 percent fall in net profits in January-March from a year earlier.

While it was in part helped by an announcement of share buybacks, the earnings were not as bad as expected as investors had been worried about rising material costs.

Similarly automation equipment maker Fanuc Corp, which lost half of its value last year on worries about the U.S.-China trade war, fell just 0.3 percent after it forecast its net profit will fall 60 percent for the year ending March 2020

Another factory automation equipment maker Keyence Corp , whose operating profit for the year through March fell short of market expectations, dropped 4.1 percent.

“Overall, earnings have not been as bad as feared. In addition, people have been selling ahead of the long holidays but that seems to be subsiding,” said a fund manager at a Japanese asset management firm.

Japanese financial markets will be closed from April 27 to May 6 as a string of public holidays are combined to celebrate Crown Prince Naruhito’s enthronement on May 1.

Investors have been reducing market exposure on worries global markets could move sharply during this period.

Elsewhere, Nissan Motor fell 1.8 percent to near four-month lows after the carmaker slashed its full-year profit forecast to its lowest in nearly a decade due to weakness in the United States. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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