* French vote relief weakens yen to the advantage of Japan
* Sony gains after raising its profit forecast
* North Korea tensions still a worry, defence-related stocks
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, April 24 Japan's Nikkei share average
rose to a near three-week high on Monday with broader investor
risk sentiment improving after centrist Emmanuel Macron took a
step towards the French presidency after the weekend's voting.
The Nikkei was boosted as the safe-haven yen slid to
a two-week low versus the dollar on the results of the French
presidential election's first round, which qualified Macron for
a May 7 runoff with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Latest opinion polls put Macron ahead of Le Pen. Concerns
towards the anti-European Union Le Pen winning the elections had
been a factor that had weighed on equity markets globally.
The Nikkei was up 1.4 percent at 18,878.31 after rising to
18,910.33, its highest since April 5.
"The equity market is breathing a sigh of relief for the
moment. The worst case scenario of Le Pen heading in to the
final round of voting with (far-leftist Jean-Luc) Melenchon has
been avoided," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at
Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.
"That said, other geopolitical concerns are likely to limit
a further rise by equities, such as tensions over North Korea
which marks the 85th anniversary of its army's foundation this
Pyongyang will mark the anniversary of the foundation of its
Korean People's Army on Tuesday as a U.S. carrier strike group
made its way towards the Korean Peninsula.
Defence industry-related firms gained amid lingering
Ishikawa Seisakusho Ltd, a maker of defence
equipment including landmines, rose 15.6 percent. Howa Machinery
, a manufacturer that supplies rifles and mortars to
Japan's military, gained 5.4 percent. Defence system equipment
maker Nippon Avionics Co climbed 8.2 percent.
Shares of Sony Corp rose as much as 4.6 percent to
hit their highest since March 31 after the electronics company
raised its operating profit estimate for the year ended March 31
thanks to lower amortisation costs for its financial services
Sony now expects a profit of around 285 billion yen ($2.59
billion), up from the 240 billion yen it estimated in February.
Japanese exporters rose after yen slid to near two-week low
against the dollar.
Panasonic Corp gained 3.4 percent, Tokyo Electron
rose 2 percent and Bridgestone Corp added 1.1
percent. Mazda Motor Corp climbed 1.4 percent and
Nissan Motor Co gained 1 percent.
Sanden Holdings Corp dove as much as 10.7 percent
after the automotive equipment manufacturer and distributor
revised its net loss for the year ended March 31 to 23 bln yen
($209 million) from its prior forecast of 10.8 billion yen.
The broader Topix gained 1.1 percent to 1,504.37 and
the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 was also 1.1 percent
higher, at 13,467.50.
($1 = 110.0500 yen)
(Editing by Sam Holmes)