Photographer: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Japan Shares Rise With Nikkei 225 Closing at Highest Since 1996

Japanese shares advanced, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average closing at its highest since December 1996, bolstered by companies in industries ranging from technology to retail.

Machinery maker Fanuc Corp., Recruit Holdings Co., FamilyMart UNY Holdings Co., SoftBank Group Corp. and Terumo Corp. were the biggest contributors to the Nikkei 225’s gain, while scandal-whipped Kobe Steel Ltd. was the worst performer, falling a record 36 percent over two sessions. Railway companies and insurers propelled the benchmark Topix index to a decade-high for a second straight day.

“Expectations for upward revisions in local companies’ annual profit targets are pretty high ahead of the earnings season kicking off later this month,” said Yoshihiro Ito, chief strategist at Okasan Online Securities Co. in Tokyo. “It also reflects anticipation of a victory for the Abe administration in the upcoming election.”

Japan’s stock market has been buoyed by a series of upbeat economic data. A Cabinet Office report released before the market opened Wednesday showed Japan’s core machinery orders for August climbed more than analysts expected. The yen’s weakness against the dollar has further fanned speculation for robust growth in quarterly earnings.

Japanese voters will head to the polls on Oct. 22 for a general election in which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will be challenged by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new Party of Hope. Support for the LDP was up marginally to 31.2 percent in an opinion survey conducted Oct. 7-9, compared with a poll from last week, according to public broadcaster NHK.

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