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Nikkei rises above 29,000 mark to end at 7-month high on US outlook

This file photo shows Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo's Nikkei stock index topped the 29,000 mark to end at its highest level in seven months on Wednesday, lifted by robust exporter issues and easing concerns about an economic slowdown in the United States.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 353.86 points, or 1.23 percent, from Tuesday at 29,222.77, its highest since Jan. 5. The broader Topix index finished 25.03 points, or 1.26 percent, higher at 2,006.99.

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

    In the foreign exchange market, the dollar was firm in the 134 yen range as investors bought the U.S. currency against the yen after strong earnings reports by retailers such as Walmart fanned expectations for a rebound of the world's largest economy, dealers said.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 134.79-81 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 $1.0166-0167 and 137.03-07 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.

    "The yen's modest fall against the dollar boosted exporters, helping the Nikkei hit the highest level since the beginning of this year," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co.

    Tokyo Stocks were bullish throughout the day, gaining their momentum from overnight gains in the Dow Jones index that ended at a four-month high following strong industrial output for July, analysts said.

    "There is a positive mood in the market on expectations that the U.S. economy may be able to make a soft landing, prompting shares to rise in the United States and Japan," Fujito added.

    The market was also supported as the West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract for September briefly fell to a seven-month low overnight, raising hopes that Japanese companies can cut their costs, traders said. Japan depends on imports for over 90 percent of its energy needs.

    Market participants have already turned their attention to the release of the minutes from last month's U.S. Federal Reserve meeting and to the country's retail sales data, both due out later in the day.

    Among Prime Market issues, advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,445 to 335, while 58 ended unchanged.

    Nippon Steel gained 50.0 yen, or 2.4 percent, to 2,167.0 yen after the company said it will restart one of the blast furnaces at its plant in Nagoya in late August, increasing expectations for better earnings.

    Among automakers, Toyota climbed 62.0 yen, or 2.9 percent, to 2,183.0 yen, Subaru rose 44.0 yen, or 1.8 percent, to 2,484.5 yen and Honda Motor was up 101 yen, or 2.8 percent, at 3,699 yen.

    Trading volume on the Prime Market rose to 1,135.29 million shares from Tuesday's 969.65 million.

    The yield on the bellwether 10-year Japanese government bond, meanwhile, rose 0.015 percentage point from Tuesday's close to 0.180 percent as investors' risk appetite grew with stocks rising, prodding them to decrease their holdings of the safe-haven debt.

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