Nikkei rises to 1-1/2 week high on China relief, ECB hopes

* Better-than-expected China data lifts China-related stocks * Financials, exporters outperform By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Japanese stocks surged to a more than one-week high on Tuesday morning as China’s better-than-expected growth data lifted China-related stocks, while expectations that the European Central Bank will unveil easing measures buoyed overall sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei rose 1.5 percent to 17,265.40 after hitting a high of 17,279.46 soon after China released fourth quarter gross domestic product data. It was the highest level since Jan. 9, putting more distance from a 2-1/2-month low of 16,592.57 hit on Friday.

China’s economic growth held steady at 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, slightly better than expected but still hovering at its weakest since the global financial crisis.

“The figure eased some concern about China’s growth,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities. “The market will continue to monitor developments in China such as measures to boost infrastructure investment.” China-related shares outperformed, with construction equipment maker Komatsu Ltd rising 2.8 percent and industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp jumping 3.2 percent.

Broader market sentiment was supported by expectations the ECB will on Thursday unveil plans to buy sovereign bonds to try to fight deflation and revive growth.

A Reuters poll of money market traders found the median expectation was for a package worth 600 billion euros, though most also felt that would not be enough to bring inflation up to target.

Financials, which underperformed the market on the previous day, were bought back. Nomura Holdings gained 2.3 percent, Daiwa Securities Group added 3.2 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 1.7 percent.

The dollar was at 118.14, holding at generally attractive levels for exporters and helping spur Toyota Motor Corp up 1.7 percent, Nissan Motor Co 1.5 percent higher and Panasonic Corp up 2.4 percent.

The broader Topix gained 1.2 percent to 1,388.87 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 1.3 percent to 12,625.07.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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