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Japan's Nikkei inches up on Fast Retailing gain, but market outlook caution sets in

TOKYO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei inched up on Thursday, led by a sharp jump in Uniqlo-operator Fast Retailing, but gains were capped as investors weighed the sustainability of the benchmark’s recent rally above 30,000.

The Nikkei share average edged up 0.15% to 30,336.69 by 0214 GMT, while the broader Topix fell 0.58% to 1950.12. On Monday, Nikkei reclaimed the 30,000 level for the first time since 1990 on rising expectations for a rebound in the economy.

“Investors want to evaluate whether Nikkei’s rally to the psychologically important 30,000 mark reflects the real market or not,” said Soichiro Matsumoto, chief investment officer Japan at Credit Suisse Private Banking.

“They are trying to see if the market maintains the momentum toward the end of the fiscal year in March and beyond.”

Apparel maker Fast Retailing, up over 4%, was the top gainer on Thursday, contributing to a rise of 152 points, or 0.5% of the index.

Drug makers also rose, with Chugai Pharmaceutical gaining 2.31% and Takeda Pharmaceutical rising 1.1%.

Optimism around the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in Japan buoyed airline stocks, with ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines jumping 1.94% and 2.21%, respectively.

Chip-related shares fell after the Nasdaq closed lower overnight. Japan’s Nidec fell 1.81%, Renesas Electronics slipped 1.46% and Advantest fell 1.99%.

The underperformers among the top 30 core Topix were Hitachi , which fell 2.39%, followed by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group losing 1.87%.

There were 55 advancers on the Nikkei index against 167 decliners.

Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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