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Nikkei index ends at 4-month high on yen's fall vs. US dollar

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

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo shares ended marginally higher Monday, with the Nikkei index hitting its highest level in more than four months, as the yen's depreciation against the U.S. dollar prompted buying of exporters, although gains were capped as investors sold some technology shares.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 73.37 points, or 0.26 percent, from Friday at 28,249.24, a level not seen since March 29. The broader Topix index finished 4.24 points, or 0.22 percent, higher at 1,951.41.

    On the top-tier Prime Market, gainers were led by mining, oil and coal product, and metal product issues.

    In the currency market, the dollar was firm in the lower 135 yen range as stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs data on Friday fueled expectations of an aggressive rate hike by the Federal Reserve next month, which would widen the interest rate gap between Japan and the United States, hence spurring dollar-buying, brokers said.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 134.98-135.00 yen compared with 134.97-135.07 yen in New York and 133.30-32 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Friday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.0208-0210 and 137.79-83 yen against $1.0190-0200 and 137.40-50 yen in New York and $1.0233-0234 and 136.41-45 yen in Tokyo late Friday afternoon.

    The U.S. economy created 528,000 nonfarm jobs in July, fanning speculation that the central bank will implement a 0.75 percentage point hike to tame inflation, higher than the market's previous consensus of 0.50 percentage point, analysts said.

    "The market was supported by a weaker yen and investors continued to buy shares of firms that have reported strong earnings so far such as Lasertec," said Toshikazu Horiuchi, an equity strategist at IwaiCosmo Securities Co.

    The Japanese currency rose last week to the lower 130 range.

    Horiuchi said Japanese stocks did not extend their losses as investors took the U.S. job data as a positive cue, showing that the world's largest economy remains strong.

    But lackluster performances by some technology shares -- which tracked the falls late last week in the Nasdaq index following the U.S. employment data -- weighed on the Tokyo market, analysts said.

    A rise in interest rates leads to higher borrowing costs for households and companies.

    Market participants refrained from making big moves ahead of Wednesday's release of U.S. consumer price index to get more hints about inflation in the country, the analysts said.

    Among Prime Market issues, advancing issues outnumbered decliners 894 to 867, while 77 ended unchanged.

    Trading volume on the Prime Market fell to 1,123.35 million shares from Friday's 1,212.46 million.

    Lasertec surged 1,865 yen, or 9.5 percent, to 21,550 yen after the semiconductor equipment manufacturer said in its earnings report Friday that its net profit saw a 29.1 percent rise in the fiscal year until June.

    The Nikkei heavyweight Tokyo Electron gained 840 yen, or 1.7 percent, to 49,700 yen amid expectations of robust earnings to be released later in the day.

    Exporters including automakers drew buying. Suzuki soared 451 yen, or 10.4 percent, to 4,772 yen, while Subaru climbed 30 yen, or 1.3 percent, to 2,409 yen, and Hino Motors gained 8 yen, or 1.2 percent, to 658 yen.

    In the technology sector, Murata Manufacturing slid 52 yen, or 0.7 percent, to 7,777 yen, while TDK fell 35 yen, or 0.7 percent, to 4,795 yen, and Screen Holdings dipped 50 yen, or 0.5 percent, to 10,030 yen.

    The yield on the bellwether 10-year Japanese government bond rose 0.010 percentage point from Friday's close to 0.170 percent.

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