Nikkei rises to fresh 15-year high on weak yen, China rate cut

* GPIF’s buying of Japanese stocks also lift the mood – analysts * Mitsui OSK outperforms on report it will sail largest container vessels * Taisei Corp falls after fund raising announcement By Ayai Tomisawa TOKYO, March 2 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average rose to a fresh 15-year high on Monday morning after China’s interest rate cut lifted global investors’ risk appetite and the yen weakened, but gains were limited as investors were cautious about the market’s recent rises.

The Nikkei gained 0.2 percent to 18,840.04 points by mid-morning, after hitting as high as 18,939.17 earlier, the highest level since April 2000. Last month, it rose 6.4 percent, the biggest monthly gain since November.

China lowered interest rates on Saturday, a day before an official survey showed the country’s factory sector contracted for a second straight month in February. The move had been expected but not so soon after it cut bank reserve requirements early in February.

“Although the direct impact of the China’s rate cut on the Japanese market is limited, the fact that the country took action promptly for its economy was taken positively,” said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities. “It has helped the yen to weaken so it’s lifting overall sentiment.” Also helping the mood was news that Japan’s trillion-dollar public pension fund bought nearly $ 15 billion worth of domestic shares in the fourth quarter, more than expected, while slashing its Japanese government bond holdings.

Exporters were steady, with Toyota Motor Corp rising 0.8 percent and Honda Motor Co > adding 0.2 percent.

The dollar traded at 119.95 yen, the highest since Feb. 12.

Mitsui OSK Lines outperformed, rising 1.9 percent to a 1-1/2-week high after the Nikkei business daily said the shipper will start sailing the world’s biggest container ships in 2017 when six of the behemoths begin plying routes connecting Asia with Europe.

Bucking the trend, Taisei Corp dropped as much as 4.8 percent to a more than a week low after saying it will issue news shares overseas.

The broader Topix gained 0.2 percent to 1,527.31 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.2 percent to 13,856.95.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

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