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Tokyo stocks end higher on hopes for additional COVID-19 vaccines

This file photo shows the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo stocks ended higher in mostly directionless trading Wednesday as hopes for access to additional coronavirus vaccines in Japan supported investor sentiment.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 150.93 points, or 0.51 percent, from Tuesday at 29,559.10. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished 9.69 points, or 0.51 percent, higher at 1,904.54.

    Gainers were led by iron and steel, nonferrous metal and air transportation issues.

    The U.S. dollar hovered in the upper 106 yen level without clear direction after U.S. stocks fell overnight.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 106.81-83 yen compared with 106.64-74 yen in New York and 106.84-86 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.2093-2095 and 129.17-21 yen against $1.2086-2096 and 128.98-129.08 yen in New York and $1.2007-2008 and 128.29-33 yen in Tokyo late Tuesday afternoon.

    The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond fell 0.010 percentage point from Tuesday's close to 0.115 percent, as investors bought the debt following overnight declines in U.S. Treasury yields. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

    Growing hopes for a normalization of business activities lifted sentiment after media reports that U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna Inc. was planning to file as early as Friday for the Japanese health ministry's approval of its vaccine, brokers said.

    With the vaccine hopes and a decline in novel coronavirus infections in Japan, investors have started buying shares that have been undervalued amid the pandemic, said Makoto Sengoku, senior equity market analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

    Shares moved narrowly around Tuesday's closing level in the morning but managed to extend gains in the afternoon as other Asian shares and U.S. stock futures were solid, brokers said.

    "Some investors moved their funds from IT-related issues to sectors sensitive to business cycles," such as steelmakers and automakers, said Chihiro Ota, assistant general manager of investment research at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

    But many market players refrained from making bold moves ahead of U.S. private employment data for February from payrolls processor ADP, due out later in the day, and a speech by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday, Ota said.

    On the First Section, advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,338 to 776, while 80 ended unchanged.

    Takeda Pharmaceutical, Moderna's partner for its vaccine's clinical study and distribution in Japan, climbed 117 yen, or 3.2 percent, to 3,793 yen.

    Among automakers, Toyota Motor added 48 yen, or 0.6 percent, to 7,971 yen, Honda Motor advanced 107.00 yen, or 3.6 percent, to 3,101.00 yen and Nissan Motor gained 24.30 yen, or 4.2 percent, to 608.70 yen.

    Bucking the upward trend, semiconductor-related companies were notably lower. Tokyo Electron fell 540 yen, or 1.2 percent, to 43,590 yen, Shin-Etsu Chemical sagged 360 yen, or 2.0 percent, to 17,425 yen and Taiyo Yuden declined 70 yen, or 1.3 percent, to 5,330 yen.

    Trading volume on the main section fell to 1,206.50 million shares from Tuesday's 1,292.67 million shares.

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