Japanese stocks rose, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average hitting a six-month high, led by carmakers including Toyota Motor Corp. Shares extended earlier gains as the yen slid to 80 against the dollar for the first time since Aug. 4.
Toyota climbed 1.8 percent as the weakening currency boosted the earnings outlook for exporters. Inpex Corp., Japan’s No. 1 energy explorer, gained 1.4 percent as oil prices neared a nine-month high. NTT DoCoMo Inc., the country’s largest mobile-phone operator by market value, rose 2 percent after a report it expanded capacity to curb service glitches.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1 percent to 9,554.00 as of 3 p.m. in Tokyo, the highest close since Aug. 4. The broader Topix Index gained 1.1 percent to 825.40, with about 12 times as many shares rising as falling. The gauge has gained 13 percent this year as U.S. economic data boost confidence and Europe takes steps to contain its debt crisis.
“Investors are keeping an eye on the yen and bargain hunting,” said Naoki Fujiwara, who helps oversee $6 billion at Shinkin Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 0.2 percent today. The gauge added less than 0.1 percent in New York yesterday after European finance ministers approved a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout for Greece to avoid a March default.
Even with investors and central bankers chipping in to relieve the debt burden, economists from Citigroup Inc. to Commerzbank AG concluded Greece may again fail to deliver amid a fifth year of recession, looming elections and social unrest.
Carmakers contributed the most to the Topix’s gain among its 33 industry groups after the yen fell to 80.08 against the dollar today. The yen weakened for a fifth day against the greenback on speculation accelerating U.S. economic growth will reduce the case for more quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve.
Toyota, which gets almost 30 percent of its sales from North America, gained 1.8 percent to 3,380 yen. Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third-biggest carmaker by market value, climbed 2.3 percent to 814 yen.
Energy stocks gained after crude oil for March delivery gained 2.5 percent to $105.84 a barrel yesterday in New York, the highest settlement since May 4. Inpex rose 1.4 percent to 577,000 yen. Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. jumped 3.2 percent to 3,980 yen, after SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. boosted its rating to “outperform” from “neutral.”
Shares in railways, retail and other industries that are less sensitive to the global economy gained. “Investors are spreading their purchases to defensive stocks after focusing on sensitive stocks,” Shinkin Asset’s Fujiwara said. “That’s supporting the markets.”
East Japan Railway Co., Japan’s largest railway operator, advanced 2.1 percent to 5,340 yen. Fast Retailing Co., Asia’s biggest clothing retailer, added 1 percent to 16,610 yen.
The Topix’s rise has increased the value of its listed stocks to 1.01 times book value, up from 0.88 in December. The current value compares with 2.23 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S. and 1.48 times for the Europe Stoxx 600 Index in Europe.
The following were among the most active shares in the Japanese market today. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names.
All Nippon Airways (9202 JT) gained 2.1 percent to 248 yen after Credit Suisse Group AG raised the carrier’s stock estimate to 290 yen from 270 yen, citing higher than expected cost cuts and the strong yen boosting its operations abroad.
Dentsu Inc. (4324 JT), Japan’s biggest advertising company, rose 2 percent to 2,475 yen. The company raised its full-year net-income forecast 7.9 percent to 24.7 billion yen ($309 million), citing a gain from the sale of Publicis Groupe SA shares.
Digital Arts Inc. (2326 JQ), an Internet filtering software developer, jumped 5.4 percent to 43,850 yen. The Tokyo Stock Exchange approved listing the company’s shares on the bourse’s second section on Feb. 28, allowing investors to trade the shares both in Tokyo and on Osaka’s Jasdaq market, according to a release.
NTT Docomo Inc. (9437 JT), Japan’s biggest mobile carrier, increased 2 percent to 140,100 yen after the Kyodo News reported the company finished an expansion of capacity to prevent service glitches.
Maxvalu Kyushu Co. (3171 JQ), a supermarket operator, traded at 1,275 yen, compared with an initial offering price of 1,250 yen per share. Maxvalu Kyushu debuted today on the Osaka Securities Exchange’s Jasdaq market.
Nintendo Co. (7974 JO), the world’s largest maker of video-game consoles, climbed 3.2 percent to 11,830 yen. The company is in early talks with “several major media companies,” exploring content distribution partnerships for the soon-to-be-released Wii U console, AdWeek said.
Noritsu Koki Co. (7744 JO), a maker of photo-processing systems, soared 13 percent to 422 yen, the biggest gain since April 2002. Shares rose after the company said it will pay a dividend of 3 yen per share this fiscal year. It paid no dividend a year earlier.
Seibu Electric & Machinery Co. (6144 JT) surged 14 percent to 415 yen, the steepest rise since June 2009. Seibu Electric, a factory equipment maker, said it will sell 1.106 million treasury shares to Toyota Industries Corp. (6201 JT), giving the motor vehicle assembler a 7.3 percent stake. Toyota Industries rose 2 percent to 2,526 yen.