March 12, 2018 / 6:33 AM / a year ago

Nikkei rises to 1-1/2-week high; suspected scandal caps earlier gains

TOKYO, March 12 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average rose to a 1-1/2-week high on Monday helped by tech shares, but early gains were trimmed as a suspected cronyism scandal dampened sentiment.

The Nikkei ended 1.7 percent higher at 21,824.03 points, the highest closing level since Feb. 28, but lower than an intraday high of 21,971.16.

References to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his wife and Finance Minister Taro Aso were removed from documents related to a controversial land sale, according to the documents seen by Reuters.

Questions over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school operator with ties to Abe’s wife, Akie, have dogged Abe since the matter became public last year.

“If this news did not sour the mood, the Nikkei could have tried 22,000,” said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.

The overall market was strong after February’s U.S. jobs report eased fears of inflation and aggressive interest rate hikes.

Chip-related technology stocks advanced following gains on Friday on the Nasdaq, with Tokyo Electron up 3.1 percent, Sumco advancing 2.5 percent and Shin-Etsu Chemical adding 2.3 percent.

Nikon Corp rose 1.5 percent and Canon Inc gained 2.0 percent.

Exporters were also supported after the dollar made large gains against the yen following Friday’s U.S. employment report.

Panasonic Corp climbed 2.7 percent and Nissan Motor Co rose 1.7 percent.

The broader Topix rose 1.5 percent at 1,741.30. (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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