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Japan's automakers and semiconductor stocks boosted by falling yen

By Sam Byford

TOKYO, July 14 (Reuters) - Japanese shares jumped on Thursday as chip and automakers gained from a drop in yen to a 24-year low amid a relentless surge in the greenback on rising bets of aggressive interest rate hikes in the United States.

The Nikkei share average closed 0.62% higher following the afternoon session.

It had opened 0.63% lower this morning after overnight CPI data showed U.S. inflation topped 9% in June, but quickly regained ground once the yen hit 138 to the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1998.

"It is possible the market had priced in a high CPI figure, or that it thinks this is the peak," said Nomura Securities strategist Maki Sawada.

The broader Topix gained 0.23%.

U.S. stocks were down overnight, but all three major indices managed to limit their losses after plummeting on the release of the CPI data. "There is a sense of relief that stocks didn't collapse," a market participant at a domestic securities firm said.

Semiconductor and electrical components companies led the Nikkei, tracking overnight gains made by the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index. Keyence Corp added 3.48%, while Tokyo Electron Ltd (TOELF) added 3.33 and Fujikura Ltd rose 2.18%.

Suzuki Motor Corp gained 3.21% after announcing last night it would end its involvement in MotoGP in order to focus its resources on sustainability.

Fellow automaker Mazda Motor Corp (MZDAF) was up 2.21%.

Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing Co Ltd, one of Nikkei's most influential components, was up 1.49% ahead of today's third-quarter earnings release. The company was forecast to report quarterly profit growth of 11%.

Utilities weighed heavily on the index, down 2.12% overall.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TKECF) was the worst performer, down 7.66%. On Wednesday, the Tokyo district court ordered four former executives to pay 13 trillion yen ($94 billion) in damages in a lawsuit brought by shareholders over the company's handling of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kansai Electric Power Co Inc and Chubu Electric Power Co Inc (CHUEF) also made losses and were down 2.35% and 1.28%, respectively. (Reporting by Sam Byford and Tokyo markets team; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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