Nikkei surges on weaker yen, hopes for ECB easing

Stocks rose sharply Tuesday, boosted by a flurry of purchases on the back of the weaker yen and mounting hopes for monetary easing by the European Central Bank.

The Nikkei 225 average shot up 352.01 points, or 2.07 percent, to end at the day’s high of 17,366.30. On Monday, the key market gauge gained 150.13 points.

The Topix jumped 25.22 points, or 1.84 percent, to 1,397.63 after rising 8.68 points Monday.

Buying outpaced selling from the outset of Tuesday’s trading following an overnight rise in European equities and the yen’s drop against the dollar. The New York market was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

European stocks enjoyed solid gains amid heightened hopes that the ECB will decide to introduce quantitative easing at its policy-setting meeting Thursday, brokers said.

In the early afternoon, the Nikkei extended gains, encouraged by brisk performances of Asian equities, such as the Shanghai market, and the yen’s further weakening against the dollar, brokers said.

Index futures-led purchases gave an additional boost to stock prices toward the close, brokers said.

Expectations for ECB monetary policy became stronger after French President Francois Hollande said in a speech Monday that the bank will decide to purchase government bonds at the upcoming meeting, according to brokers.

Analysts warned, however, that Tokyo stocks may be hit by selling even if the ECB decides to take easing steps as investors are expected to consider there will be no positive incentives for the stock market for the time being.

“Selling on a rally is likely to weigh on (the Nikkei average) at levels around 17,800,” said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan Inc. “The ongoing correction will finish if the Nikkei surpasses the level.”

Many brokers said market participants still need to confirm earnings reports from key Japanese companies and the results of the Greek general election Sunday. The earnings reporting season in Japan will get into full swing next week.

The market’s volatility is expected to be high, with the Nikkei moving between 16,600 and 17,800, Otani said.

Rising issues far outnumbered falling ones 1,657 to 158 in the first section, while 45 issues were unchanged.

Volume increased to 2.13 billion shares from 2.04 billion Monday.

Oriental Land climbed sharply on hopes for increasing demand from foreign tourists after the Japan National Tourism Organization said Tuesday that the number of foreign visitors to Japan hit a record high in 2014.

The weaker yen boosted export-oriented names. Among them were automakers Toyota, Honda and Mazda, as well as technology giants Panasonic, Hitachi and Sony.

Robot-maker Fanuc surged 3.7 percent after Citigroup Global Markets Japan revised up its investment rating on the company, brokers said.

On the other hand, trading house Itochu tumbled over 2 percent, apparently hit by profit-taking following the recent gains.

Also on the minus side were electronics-maker Sharp, Skymark Airlines and Hokkaido Electric Power.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average climbed 350 points to end at 17,390.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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