By Dominic Lau
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average soared 2.8 percent on Tuesday morning to break above 14,000 for the first time since June 2008 as the market played catch-up from an extended holiday, with last week's strong U.S. jobs data easing concerns over the health of Japan's biggest export market.
The Nikkei <.N225> was up 378.71 points at 14,072.75 after closing for public holidays on Friday and Monday. Tuesday's rally took the benchmark above 13,988, the 61.8 percent retracement of its slide from February 2007 to October 2008.
A senior dealer at a foreign bank said their buy orders outpaced sell by 2-1/2 times.
"We picked up a very decent size buy program out of the domestic accounts," he said. "I think smart money domestic (investors) are sellers at around 15,000. They are not going to sell here. The market can keep going."
But he added Japanese corporate earnings "are a little bit crappy ... people are just a little bit disappointed." Of the 65 Nikkei companies that have reported quarterly earnings so far, 54 percent of them either beat or met market expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
A stronger-than-expected U.S. nonfarm payrolls for April, with 165,000 jobs being added and the unemployment rate falling to 7.5 percent, the lowest since December 2008, provided much needed relief to investors rattled by a series of soft data in recent weeks.
The United States is Japan's biggest export market, followed closely by China. A run of soft data from China was also a factor in the recent selloff in commodities and other riskier markets.
Japanese exporters led the rally, with Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Sony Corp <6758.T>, semiconductor equipment maker Tokyo Electron Ltd <8035.T> and Suzuki Motor Corp <7269.T> up between 3.3 and 5.5 percent.
Sony was the most traded on the main board by turnover, while Toyota took third spot.
The sector was also helped by the renewed weakness in the yen, which has fallen 1.1 percent against the dollar to 99.17 since Thursday.
The Japanese currency has weakened nearly 24 percent against the dollar since mid-November while the Nikkei has jumped 62 percent after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began promising to revive the economy with expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, dubbed as "Abenomics", during his election campaign.
The yen's declines gathered fresh momentum after the Bank of Japan's April 4 announcement of a radical monetary expansion campaign to end two decades of stagnation.
The broader Topix <.TOPX> index advanced 2.6 percent to 1,183.58.
JPMorgan said it expected the Nikkei to trade around 14,150 based on the correlation between the yen/won exchange rate and the Tokyo's index. The yen hit a more than five-year low of 11.0057 won on Tuesday.
"According to regression analysis, the sensitivity in the Nikkei against JPY/KRW movements strengthened since mid-March," it said in a note.
"While Japan's stock market was closed last Friday and Monday, the current JPY/KRW level suggests the Nikkei index should be 14,150."
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)