U.S. Markets closed

Japan's Nikkei hits highest close in nearly six years

Pedestrians look at a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo November 26, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average soared 1.8 percent to its highest closing level in nearly six years on Thursday, as a slump in the yen pushed exporters higher on expectations of improved earnings.

The Nikkei closed 277.49 points higher at 15,727.12, the biggest daily gain in a week.

The benchmark is up 9.8 percent so far this month, and up 51 percent so far this year.

If the year-to-date gains were to hold for the rest of the year, it would be the Nikkei's best yearly performance since 1972.

The Topix advanced 1.1 percent to 1,261.04, with 2.28 billion shares changing hands, up from Wednesday's 2.18 billion shares but down from Tuesday's 2.49 billion shares.

The dollar rose as high as 102.28 yen on the EBS trading platform, its highest since May 29, after data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment aid unexpectedly fell last week.

(Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Dominic Lau & Kim Coghill)