Nikkei tops 20,000 for first time in 15 years; up 2.4 percent on week

By Hideyuki Sano and Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average topped the psychological 20,000-point mark on Friday for the first time in 15 years on hopes of stronger corporate earnings, and gained 2.4 percent on the week.

The Nikkei rose as high as 20,006 before ending down 0.2 percent at 19,907.63.

“Market opinion is divided over whether the 20,000 mark is just one point in a rally or a goal. Up until now, both camps were buying but from now some investors will be selling,” said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities.

The rally has been driven by many factors, including hopes of higher shareholder returns, a rise in corporate earnings, a recovery in domestic consumption and more share buying, both real and imagined, by Japanese public investors.

The market expects Japanese earnings to rise 10 to 15 percent this year, but with the Nikkei already up 14 percent so far this year, some investors see limited justification to chase them much higher.

“Although we may see double-digit gains at the end of the fiscal year, companies will most likely give conservative forecasts at their full-year earnings releases (in May),” said Fumio Matsumoto, a fund manager at Dalton Capital Japan.

“That’s when the market may see a correction.”

Drugmakers, the best performers so far this year, were among leading decliners on Friday, falling 1.7 percent.

Astellas Pharma fell 2.6 percent. Eisai Co, which has risen 80 percent this year, dropped 5.0 percent after it said it would cut about 450 jobs, or about 25 percent of its workforce in the United States.

Fast Retailing, the operator of Uniqlo casual clothing chain, rose 2.5 percent after it raised its guidance for the year ending in August.

Ryohin Keikaku shot up 11.7 percent after the operator of Muji stores forecast solid profit growth for the year to February.

The valuation of retailers and some other domestic demand-oriented shares, such as food companies, has become high by historical standards.

But some market players say these shares are not necessarily expensive given that the prospects that Japan is exiting more than a decade of deflation mean their revenues are likely to grow even without economic growth in real terms.

The broader Topix fell 0.3 percent to 1,589.54 while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 0.4 percent to 14,456.65.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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