A newspaper report that Nikko Cordial Corp. was seeking a controlling stake in Tokyo Star Bank Ltd. sent Japan's third-biggest brokerage lower but boosted Tokyo Star Bank.
Analysts said the market was in a tight range, and with many corporations closing their books at the end of March, investors are not in a hurry to buy stocks.
''We are coming up to the fiscal year end ... and when the U.S. has a little bit of hiccup, oil takes a bit of rise, it just means that 'I don't really need to go in and jump in today,''' said Kirby Daley, a strategist at Fimat.
The Nikkei rose 31.95 points to 16,521.32 as of 0458 GMT.
The TOPIX index was up 0.29 percent at 1,684.93.
Energy stocks rose following a more than $2 jump in U.S.
crude oil futures on Thursday.
Cosmo Oil Co. advanced 2.5 percent to 607 yen and Nippon Oil Corp. gained 1.7 percent to 913 yen.
Sumitomo Realty&Development Co. Ltd., Japan's third-largest property developer, added 2.9 percent to 3,000 yen. A government survey of land prices released on Thursday showed price rises in some cities for the first time in 15 years.
Higher land prices in the Nagoya area helped shares in Nagoya Railroad Co. Ltd. to rise 4 percent to 443 yen, while Maruei Department Store Co. Ltd., a Nagoya retailer, gained 7 percent to 337 yen.
Nikko Cordial dropped 1.4 percent to 1,946 yen. A source close to the deal separately told Reuters that Nikko Cordial plans to buy up to 50 percent of Tokyo Star Bank in a deal worth over $1.2 billion.
Tokyo Star Bank shot up 10.7 percent to 433,000 yen.
Daley of Fimat said banks and brokerage firms stand to benefit from any stock market rises and an economic pickup, and if they expand through acquisitions like the reported Nikko and Tokyo Star deal, they would benefit more.
''The larger brokerages will be the ones that benefit most and clearly, this is sort of a first to see them go after a regional bank, but it makes a lot of sense. We may expect to see more of it,'' he said.
Technology stocks struggled after Deutsche Securities analysts Fumiaki Sato and Masaki Taketsume said the sector outlook appears dim.
''The earnings of many Japanese electronics companies are heavily influenced not only by domestic economic conditions but also by the semiconductor cycle and other global tech cycles,'' the two said in a report on Thursday.
''We cannot foresee high earnings growth in the fiscal year to March 2007 as the semiconductor cycle is already flattening.'' Advantest Corp., a maker of semiconductor testing equipment, dropped 0.7 percent to 13,050 yen, while TDK Corp fell 1.7 percent to 8,790 yen.
REUTERS CH BST1117