TOKYO, March 18 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average rose to a fresh 15-year high on Wednesday on hopes for an economic recovery and higher shareholder returns, while Nintendo Co jumped 21 percent after it said it will enter the smartphone gaming industry.

The Nikkei ended 0.6 percent higher at 19,544.48, the highest closing since April 2000.

Nintendo soared to its daily limit of 17,080 yen after remaining untraded during trading hours as its buy orders outnumbered sell orders. Tokyo Stock Exchange rules mean that a glut of bid orders, unmatched by sufficient sell orders, can leave shares untraded during the day.

Analysts said that investors have continued to buy Tokyo shares on hopes for steady improvement in Japan’s economy and increased shareholder returns.

“The fact that Toyota is hitting fresh record highs means that investors think Japanese stocks will rise further,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. “When they are bullish on Japan, they buy Topix’s large components such as Toyota and mega banks.” Toyota Motor Corp rose 1.5 percent to 8,463 yen after touching a fresh record high of 8,480 yen, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group gained 1.7 percent and SMFG advanced 0.7 percent.

Markets awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy statement later in the day for more clues on when it will raise interest rates.

The broader Topix gained 0.8 percent to 1,582.46 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.6 percent to 14,385.44.

(Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Richard Borsuk)