Japan's Nikkei rallies on Wall Street's lead as earnings season looms

TOKYO, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average jumped more than 1% on Monday, taking cues from a rally on Wall Street last week, with chip-related stocks leading gains.

The Nikkei was 1.13% higher at 26,852.85 by the midday break, after touching its highest since Dec. 20 at 26,885.99 earlier.

Of the index’s 225 components, 196 rose, 23 fell and six were flat.

The broader Topix rose 0.89% to 1,944.05, after hitting its highest since Dec. 16 at 1,946.59.

Investors are more focused on Wall Street, with many markets around Asia shut for Lunar New Year celebrations, Nomura strategist Maki Sawada said.

“There are no specific drivers to speak of, and today’s moves are mainly a reflection of Wall Street’s rally on Friday,” she said in a media conference call.

However, for the Nikkei, “it would be hard to extend a rally of more than 300 or 400 points with earnings season really getting underway from tomorrow,” Sawada added.

On Friday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq led gains among the big three U.S. equity indexes, advancing 2.86%. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index rallied 3.11%.

Chip-making equipment giant Tokyo Electron was the Nikkei’s biggest points gainer, adding about 37 points with a 2.41% advance.

Mobile games maker Nexon was the biggest percentage riser, jumping 3.1%

Other standouts included online retailer Rakuten Group , which rallied 2.53%, and startup investor SoftBank Group, which added 1.82%.

Uniqlo store operator Fast Retailing rose 1.22%.

The yen’s retreat from last week’s 7 1/2-month high also helped sentiment by boosting the outlook for exporters, although the currency strengthened on Monday.

Automakers were firm, with Toyota up 0.42% and Suzuki gaining 1.5%.

Nintendo rose 0.96%. (Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Rashmi Aich)