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Nikkei tops 29,000 for 1st time since early January

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

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's key Nikkei stock index topped the 29,000 line Wednesday for the first time since early January as concern eased over a U.S. economic slowdown.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average rose 232.42 points, or 0.81 percent, from Tuesday to 29,101.33. The broader Topix index was up 15.39 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,997.35.

    On the top-tier Prime Market, gainers were led by marine transportation, nonferrous metal and insurance issues.

    The U.S. dollar hovered in the lower 134 yen range, with buying of the currency on greater confidence about the world's second-largest economy offset by selling to minimize risk prior to the release later in the day of Federal Reserve minutes, dealers said.

    At noon, the dollar fetched 134.15-16 yen compared with 134.20-30 yen in New York and 133.65-67 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.0172-0176 and 136.46-52 yen against $1.0166-0176 and 136.46-56 yen in New York and $1.0159-0161 and 135.78-82 yen in Tokyo late Tuesday afternoon.

    Tokyo stocks were upbeat, tracking a sharp rise of the Dow Jones index that ended at a four-month high on Tuesday following strong earnings results from retailers such as Walmart.

    "The earnings showed that consumption remains strong in the United States, further easing investors' concerns about an economic slowdown there," said Kazuo Kamitani, a strategist in the Investment Content Department of Nomura Securities Co.

    Robust U.S. factory output data for July, released Tuesday, also improved investor sentiment and boosted automakers, he said.

    Toyota climbed 38.0 yen, or 1.8 percent, to 2,159.0 yen, Subaru rose 46.5 yen, or 1.9 percent, to 2,487.0 yen and Mazda Motor was up 8.0 yen, or 0.7 percent, at 1,235 yen.

    The West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract for September briefly fell to a seven-month low overnight, also lifting shares as expectations grew of cost cuts by companies, given that Japan is an energy importer, traders said.

    Among Prime Market issues, advancers outnumbered decliners 1,324 to 432, while 81 ended the morning unchanged.

    Nippon Steel, meanwhile, gained 39.0 yen, or 1.8 percent, to 2,156.0 yen after the company said Tuesday it will restart one of the blast furnaces at its plant in Nagoya in late August, increasing expectations of better earnings.

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