* Nikkei up 1.6 pct on possible IMF aid for Italy
* Record Black Friday sales raise hopes for strong Christmas
* Shippers, steelmakers, brokerages bought back
* Olympus down more than 10 pct in speculative trade
By Mari Saito and Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Nov 28 - The Nikkei stock average on Monday rebounded from a 2-1/2 year low hit last week as strong U.S. retail sales over the Thanksgiving weekend and a report that the IMF was considering support for Italy sparked short-covering.
Market players bought back battered shares such as Nomura Securities, shippers and steelmakers, though many participants noted it was premature to count on clear progress in measures to resolve Europe’s debt crisis.
“Talk of support for Italy and reports of strong U.S. holiday sales were supporting the market. But we’re by no means in a situation where we can become very positive about a recovery in share prices,” said Kazuhiro Takahashi, general manager at Daiwa Securities.
The Nikkei rose 1.6 percent to 8,287.49, moving away from a 2-1/2 year low hit last week and marking its first gain in six sessions. The broader Topix index gained 1.3 percent to 715.70.
The bounce in the Nikkei, in line with a rise in U.S. stock futures and short-covering in the euro, comes after the Tokyo index lost 2.6 percent last week.
“The market is now in a range-bound trading phase after constant falls over the past two weeks. The market is still hampered by doubts over the whether the IMF’s support for Italy is for real,” said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
Italian daily La Stampa said the International Monetary fund was preparing a rescue package worth up to 600 billion euros for Italy, but such a sum would be beyond the IMF’s current capacity, raising doubts over whether such a scheme would be immediately possible.
Just after the Tokyo stock market closed, an IMF spokesman said there were no discussions with the Italian authorities on a programme for IMF financing.
Participants remained as wary as ever about the deepening debt crisis in Europe.
“I thought Italy would stabilise a bit after Berlusconi left office, but the downgrade in Belgium, the high bond yields leaves an impression that Europe has entered a black hole,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.
“You can’t tell where the next landmine is,” he said.
But reports of strong retail sales at the start of the holiday shopping season helped ease some pessimism about the global economy.
U.S. retailers racked up a record $52.4 billion in sales during the Black Friday weekend, up 16 percent from last year, raising hopes that strong sales may continue through the Christmas season.
Shippers were the best performers on Monday, with the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s shipping subindex jumping 5.6 percent, after having lost more than 60 percent from this year’s peak in February by Friday.
Steelmakers, another recent underperforming sector, rose 2.9 percent. Nomura Securities, which hit a more than three-decade low last week, climbed 4.4 percent.
Scandal-hit Olympus Corp dropped 10.6 percent after logging gains all last week, continuing what traders call a “money game” of short-term speculative trading. It was the third-heaviest traded share by turnover.
Ousted CEO Michael Woodford met with the Olympus board last Friday and said the priority for all members were to meet the Dec. 14 filing deadline and avoid delisting. Woodford is set to meet officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation this week.
Trading volume was subdued with 1.36 billion shares changing hands on Tokyo’s main board, about 15 percent below the average of the last 20 days. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by 1,107 to 419. (Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Chris Gallagher)