* Softer yen continues to spur gains for exporters * China GDP matches consensus; on track for year target * Real estate stocks benefits from easing hopes By Sophie Knight TOKYO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average jumped to a three-week high after China GDP figures reassured with no nasty surprises, prompting investors, heartened by recent weakness in the yen, to buy back heavily battered shares. The benchmark rose 1.7 percent to 8,952.68, sailing above its 25-day moving average as the yen softened to 79 versus the dollar, a fillip for exporters whose overseas earnings have been crimped by the strength of the Japanese currency. "The whole index is being driven up, without too much focus on individual stocks, on short-covering due to the favourable exchange rate," said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities. China's economy slowed for a seventh straight quarter in July-September, missing the government's target for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis, but other data released on Thursday pointed to a year-end rebound. Komatsu Ltd, a construction machinery maker often seen as a gauge of sentiment on China due to its large exposure to the country, jumped 3.9 percent. "There is still extremely negative sentiment around the global slowdown, particularly around China... but I think that pessimism has been largely priced in, making Japanese stocks cheap," said Tetsuro Ii, CEO of Commons Assets Management. "I think its a good idea to buy over the next month or so while things are still cheap, and before we have to contend with the U.S. fiscal cliff and other obstacles," Ii said. The Nikkei has been hit in recent weeks as investors fret over profit warnings and likely lacklustre earnings to come, and the index lost 3.7 percent last week, its biggest weekly drop since May. But earnings in the U.S. this week have not been as bad as expected, boosting sentiment. Of the 14 percent of S&P 500 companies that have already reported profits, 65 percent have beaten analysts' expectations, above the long-term average of 62 percent. Upbeat U.S. housing and other economic data has also improved sentiment for risk assets, weighing on the Japanese currency, which is holding a whisker above a five-month low against the euro and a tad higher than a two-month trough versus the dollar. Toyota Motor Co added 2.5 percent to a three-week high, in spite of a report that it is looking to cut production by 200,000 cars this year due to lower demand in China on anti-Japanese sentiment in the wake of a territorial spat. The real estate sector gained 2.2 percent and was among the strongest sub-indexes on expectations that the Bank of Japan will ease monetary policy further at its meeting on Oct. 30, possibly by bumping up its budget for real-estate investment trusts. Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Estate Co Ltd gained 2.2 and 2.1 percent, respectively. Nissin Electric Co Ltd rose 4.4 percent after JPMorgan upgraded the LCD screen maker to "overweight" from "neutral", saying it was likely to score record high earnings in 2013 and that the share price's fall of 19 percent over the last three months was overdone.