Nikkei hits one-month high on Wall Street rally; financials shine

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese shares climbed to a one-month high on Monday morning, extending its winning streak to a third day, helped by the yen's retreat and a closing record-high for Wall Street on upbeat United States housing data.

The benchmark Nikkei gained 0.7 per cent to 14,559.43 in early trade, after rising as high as 14,592.60, a level last seen on April 22. The index has extended a rebound from a one-month low of 13,964 hit just on Wednesday.

Activity was light, partly as financial markets in London and New York are closed on Monday for public holidays, and the rally was blocked at a major resistance - an Ichimoku cloud top at 14,600.

"The order flow this morning is severely crimped by holidays in the US and UK," said Stefan Worrall, director of equity cash sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo.

"While you have this extraordinary rally in the U.S., the key levels to look at here are 100 yen for the dollar/yen and 14,000 for the Nikkei. Since we've bounced off in very light volume, it's too early to say we are out of the woods yet."

The yen retreated to 101.960 yen to the dollar, from the 3-1/2 month high of 100.805 yen hit last Wednesday, providing some relief to investors worried that a strong yen will erode exporters' profits.

The US S&P 500 closed at a record high on Friday, buoyed by a rally in housing stocks after better-than-expected new home sales data.

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes rose more than expected in April and the number of houses on the market hit a 3-1/2 year-high, data showed on Friday.

The market mood was also helped by a decisive victory for Ukrainian billionaire Petro Poroshenko in the nation's presidential election, which raised hopes of a resolution to a months-long crisis.

Financial shares led the way as investors bought them back following their sharp fall so far this year.

Security brokerages rose 2.4 per cent, though they are still the worst performer this year with fall of 21 percent. They were followed by other battered shares, such as banks and steelmakers, which rose 1.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

Nomura Holdings rose 2 per cent, hitting seven-week highs, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group gained 2.1 per cent and Mizuho Financial advanced 1.5 percent. Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal climbed 1.8 per cent.

Panasonic, Sony and Japan Display rose after domestic media reported that the three companies will tie up to form an organic light-emitting display business.

Panasonic rose 1.1 per cent, Sony 4.2 per cent and Japan Display 2.3 per cent.

The broader Topix advanced 0.9 per cent to 1,190.50 in subdued trade, with trading volume at 28.1 per cent of full daily average for the past 90 days.

The new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.8 per cent to 10,858.68.