March 22, 2018 / 6:41 AM / a year ago

Nikkei rises; pension fund buying seen; large-cap stocks gain

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose on Thursday in choppy trade despite a strong yen with pension funds and retail investors scooping up recently-battered stocks with attractive valuations.

Index-heavy stocks such as Fanuc and Fast Retailing were in demand, rising 3.7 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

The Nikkei ended 1.0 percent higher at 21,591.99, after trading in negative territory in early trade. Japanese markets were closed on Wednesday for a national holiday.

Investors bought shares in export-focused firms, as the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday but appeared less hawkish than anticipated, forecasting just two more hikes for 2018 in its first policy meeting under new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

With Japan's fiscal year-end looming, the Government Pension Investment Fund and other funds were likely buyers as the Nikkei has become cheap, with its price/earnings ratio falling to around 12, traders said.

They also said retail investors, who are attracted to income gains through dividends, are dismissing the depressing influence of a strong yen for now.

The dollar was down 0.1 percent at 105.93 yen. A stronger yen would crunch exporters' profits made abroad when repatriated.

Canon Inc surged 2.2 percent, Daikin Industries rose 2.1 percent, and Sony gained 2.0 percent.

The broader Topix rose 0.7 percent to 1,727.39. (Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Sunil Nair)

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