TOKYO, March 1 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average is expected to tread in a range on Thursday, with profit-taking likely to emerge after a rally of more than 10 percent in Feburary but support seen firm after the European Central Bank's liquidity operation. The Nikkei is set to trade between 9,700 and 9,800 on Thursday, strategists said, after Nikkei futures in Chicago closed at 9,755, up 45 points or 0.5 percent, from the Osaka close of 9,710. "Japanese markets only recently jumped into the global equities rally so even if there is profit-taking I doubt that the index will fall much in the weeks ahead. That said, stocks that were bought heavily in February may see some profit-taking today," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities. The Nikkei ended flat at 9,723.24 on Wednesday, but logged its best February performance in two decades, while the broader Topix slipped 0.3 percent to 835.96. A total of 800 banks grabbed 530 billion euros at the ECB's offering of cheap three-year funds on Wednesday, slightly more than analysts had expected for the bank's second long-term refinancing operation. "The amount offered by the ECB was within expectations and adds to the excess liquidity already being offered by central banks that is currently supporting markets," said Hirano. U.S. stocks slipped overnight after the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy and gave no hint of further easing moves, disappointing investors hoping for a signal of more stimulus. >Wall St snaps 4-day advance after Bernanke comments >Dollar gains vs euro, yen as Bernanke gives no QE3 signal >US bonds slip as Bernanke fails to signal stimulus >Gold down 5 pct, biggest one-day drop in 3 years >Oil ends Feb. higher on upbeat U.S. Fed report STOCKS TO WATCH --SOFTBANK Japan's No. 3 mobile phone operator Softbank Corp won a coveted 900 Megahertz spectrum for high-speed mobile services, Japan's Communications Ministry panel said on Wednesday. --DAINIPPON SUMITOMO PHARMA CO Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma said on Wednesday that it will buy U.S. Boston Biomedical Inc for $200 million to expand its cancer treatment business and also said it would make up to $540 million in milestone payments for two experimental medicines to the unlisted Norwood, Massachusetts company, which specialises in cancer drugs. --DAIICHI SANKYO Daiichi Sankyo Co, Japan's No.3 drugmaker, will tie up with Britain's pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline plc to bring new products to the Japanese market, the Nikkei said on Thursday. --MITSUBISHI HEAVY Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd may handle the entire launch operation for Japan's H-IIB rocket on behalf of the nation's aerospace agency, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.