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Tokyo: Nikkei rises amid prospect of tax hike delay, weaker yen

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[TOKYO] Japanese stocks rose in thin trade on Friday, amid the growing prospect that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would delay by several years a sales tax hike scheduled to go into effect next April.

The Nikkei share average edged up 0.4 per cent to 16,834.84 and ended a very light trading week just over half a per cent higher.

Trading remained subdued but the total volume on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section did edge up to a one-week high of 1.805 billion shares.

Turnover was its lowest since Dec 28, 2015 at 1.658 trillion yen.

Mr Abe is considering postponing next year's sales tax increase by several years, government sources told Reuters, due to concerns the move could tip the economy back into deflation.

Market participants said the benchmark index was lifted slightly by Wall Street's recent gains and firmer expectations that the Fed could raise interest rates as soon as June, reflecting optimism over the state of the world's largest economy.

Exporters' shares were mixed as the yen trended away from its recent strength but remained volatile ahead of a highly-anticipated speech that US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will give later in the day.

Home appliances and electronics exporter Panasonic Corp declined 0.4 per cent while auto exporter Mazda Motor Corp gained 0.6 per cent and Sharp Corp jumped 4.3 per cent.

Toshiba Corp shares soared 11 per cent after JP Morgan raised its rating of the embattled electronic firm's stock to "overweight" from "underweight". The broader Topix rose 0.5 per cent to 1,349.93 and ended the week about half a per cent higher.

The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 0.5 per cent to 12,180.00.