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Tokyo stocks end higher as Omicron fears ease, SoftBank soars

This May 7, 2020 file photo shows the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo stocks surged Tuesday, with the Nikkei stock index briefly rising over 2 percent, on receding concerns about the new Omicron coronavirus variant, while sharp gains in the blue-chip SoftBank Group boosted the market further.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 528.23 points, or 1.89 percent, from Monday at 28,455.60. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished 42.31 points, or 2.17 percent, higher at 1,989.85.

    Every industry category gained ground, except for farm and fishery issues. Major gainers were led by air transportation and marine transportation issues.

    The U.S. dollar inched up into the upper 113 yen range after U.S. Treasury yields rose as a rally on Wall Street overnight prompted investors to unload bonds, seen as a safe-haven asset, dealers said.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 113.63-65 yen compared with 113.45-55 yen in New York and 113.14-15 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Monday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.1289-1290 and 128.28-32 yen against $1.1281-1291 and 128.02-12 yen in New York and $1.1275-1277 and 127.57-61 yen in Tokyo late Monday afternoon.

    The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond inched up 0.015 percentage point from Monday's close to 0.050 percent as investors sold the safe-haven debt on higher Tokyo shares.

    Stocks tracked gains in U.S. shares overnight following the Dow Jones index's largest daily point gain this year after Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, suggested the Omicron variant may not be as severe as first believed.

    Investors bought a wide range of issues in Tokyo throughout Tuesday, pushing the Nikkei up nearly 700 points in afternoon trading, partly because SoftBank Group shares were snapped up after the Nikkei heavyweight plummeted over 8 percent the previous day.

    "Fauci's remarks have eased fears about the Omicron strain, raising hopes for the normalization of economic activities," said Makoto Sengoku, senior equity market analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

    A weaker yen supported the downside and investor sentiment got a boost by gains in Asian markets as well as steady U.S. stock futures, Sengoku said.

    On the First Section, advancing issues outnumbered decliners 2,110 to 58, while 16 ended unchanged.

    SoftBank Group surged 405 yen, or 7.9 percent, to 5,508 yen following its seven-day drop, while a sharp rise during New York trading of China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., in which SoftBank is a shareholder, further boosted the Nikkei heavyweight.

    Meanwhile, issues that had taken a hit following the emergence of the Omicron variant performed particularly well, brokers said.

    Among air transportation issues, ANA Holdings soared 88.0 yen, or 3.8 percent, to 2,389.5 yen, and Japan Airlines jumped 96 yen, or 4.6 percent, to 2,183 yen.

    Department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings was up 25 yen, or 3.2 percent, at 816 yen, while competitor Takashimaya advanced 30 yen, or 2.9 percent, to 1,057 yen.

    Yamato Holdings climbed 54 yen, or 2.1 percent, to 2,664 yen, a day after saying the number of parcels delivered by the company in November rose 9.8 percent from the previous year.

    Trading volume on the main section rose to 1,291.11 million shares from Monday's 1,086.94 million shares.

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