Nikkei ekes out minor rise ahead of U.S. jobs data

Stocks ended slightly higher Friday, boosted by purchases following an overnight rise in New York equities, but their gains were limited by caution prior to the release of key U.S. economic data.

The Nikkei 225 average climbed 30.63 points to end at 17,197.73. On Thursday, the key market gauge jumped 281.77 points.

The Topix closed up 2.91 points at 1,380.58 after rising 17.87 points Thursday.

The TSE opened higher after the Dow Jones industrial average rose sharply, inspired by solid retail sales in the year-end shopping season, and major European shares enjoyed handsome gains amid hopes for additional easing steps by the European Central Bank.

After the initial buying ran its course, however, prices fell on the back of a halt in the yen’s easing against the dollar.

In midafternoon trading, the key indexes slipped into negative territory, dampened by position-adjustment selling and selling on a rally prior to the three-day weekend and the release later Friday of closely watched U.S. government employment data for December, brokers said.

The TSE market will be closed Monday for Coming of Age Day.

Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist in Okasan Securities Co.’s investment strategy department, said stocks were unable to rise sharply because “hedge funds have already shifted their attention from Japanese stocks to European stocks amid growing hopes for additional easing by the ECB.”

Active buying was also held in check due to “investor worries that the U.S. stock market will fall back tonight,” said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co.

“Market participants have factored in strong readings in the U.S. jobs data,” Miura said. “They believe selling will hit New York stocks as the market will lack additional positive incentives for the time being.”

The market consensus for the December U.S. employment report calls for an increase of 240,000 nonfarm jobs, brokers said.

Despite the key indexes’ gains, falling issues outnumbered rising ones 986 to 728 in the first section, while 145 issues were unchanged.

Volume increased to 2.503 billion shares from 2.471 billion Thursday.

Shipbuilder Kawasaki Heavy jumped 2.57 percent following a newspaper report Friday that its fiscal 2014 group operating profit is expected to increase by 17 percent from a year earlier to a record ¥85 billion.

NTT Docomo rocketed over 5 percent on hopes for success in its new fixed-line broadband connection service, Docomo hikari, scheduled to start in February, brokers said. Rival mobile carriers SoftBank and KDDI also gained ground.

On the other hand, Mazda plunged after JPMorgan Securities Japan cut its stock price target on the automaker, brokers said.

JAL and rival air carrier ANA Holdings, as well as shipping firms Kawasaki Kisen and Nippon Yusen, came under profit-taking after their hefty gains on Thursday.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average fell 40 points to end at 17,210.

Nikkei Futures

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