Japan stocks end higher on hopes for robust earnings season

TOKYO, April 9 (Reuters) - Japanese shares closed higher on Friday, buoyed by growing expectations that companies will report healthy profits and issue upbeat forecasts as earnings reports start to roll in.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended up 0.2% at 29,768.06, while the broader Topix gained 0.39% to 1,959.47.

Stocks in Tokyo got off to a bright start, tracking the S&P 500’s record closing high and supportive comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday.

Shares of industrial robot and semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker Yaskawa Electric Corp ended flat ahead of its earnings due later in the day.

Analysts said this could set the tone for Japan’s industrial sector, which is expected to benefit from a rebound in global capital expenditure and rising investment to ease a shortage in semiconductors.

“This is just the beginning of the (equities) cycle,” said Junichi Inoue, head of Japanese equities at Janus Henderson Investors.

“This is going to be capex-driven and a bigger cycle than previously. Japanese companies are very strong in capital equipment. In general, the machinery sector should benefit.”

The stock that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names was Sony Group Corp, up 2.77%. Hitachi Ltd rose 2.66%, boosted by reports it was in talks to sell its metals unit.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were Seven & i Holdings Co Ltd down 2.53%, followed by Itochu Corp losing 1.08%.

Looking ahead to next week, one factor that could limit equity gains is the Japanese government’s plan to place Tokyo under a new, month-long “quasi-emergency” state to combat surging COVID-19 case numbers, analysts said.

There were 149 advancers on the Nikkei index against 73 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.96 billion, compared to the average of 1.38 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Rashmi Aich)