Nikkei reaches highest closing in nearly 15 years

The Nikkei 225 average on Friday rewrote its highest closing level in 14 years and 10 months, boosted by purchases on persistent hopes for fund flows into global stock markets.

The key market gauge surged 219.16 points, or 1.17 percent, to close at 18,971.00, the best finish since April 19, 2000.

The Topix gained 17.12 points, or 1.12 percent, to end at 1,540.84.

The TSE opened higher after the European Central Bank on Thursday announced details of its quantitative monetary easing.

A wide range of issues attracted purchases on the back of heightened hopes that more investment money will flow into stock markets around the world, with the Nikkei average coming within striking distance of 19,000.

The market’s upside was limited in the afternoon, however, as investors took a wait-and-see stance prior to the release of the U.S. government’s employment data for February later Friday, brokers said.

Analysts believe Tokyo stocks will remain firm regardless of the results of the U.S. jobs data. They said the prevailing view will be that the U.S. Federal Reserve may postpone raising interest rates if the data turn out worse than expected, while investors are likely to appreciate signs of a solid U.S. economy if the data turn out favorable.

“Stocks headed higher today even though the yen did not ease against the dollar from morning levels,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist in Okasan Securities Co.’s investment strategy department. “Investors are focused more on domestic economic data and the course of wage talks.”

The Nikkei may have failed to reach 19,000 on Friday, but an official at a major securities firm said investor appetite for stocks was strong and that the quality of the market’s advance was decent.

Rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,166 to 549 in the first section, while 147 issues were unchanged.

Volume increased to 2.128 billion shares from Thursday’s 1.824 billion.

Optical equipment maker Olympus surged 5.75 percent on massive buybacks after the previous day’s tumble.

Mainstay large-cap issues attracted brisk purchases on the back of a solid supply-demand balance. Among them were automakers Toyota and Honda, camera manufacturer Canon and robot builder Fanuc.

Convenience store operator Family Mart plunged over 2 percent while retailer Uny Group Holdings rocketed 10.66 percent following media reports Friday that they considering combining their operations in a deal that would create the second-largest convenience store group in Japan.

Mobile carrier SoftBank lost ground after Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities revised down its stock price target on the company.

Also on the minus side were electronics makers Sony and Hitachi and Internet portal Yahoo Japan.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average jumped 230 points to end at 18,990.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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