Tokyo: Japan’s Nikkei stock average hit its highest point in 10 months on Wednesday after US data strengthened hopes for an economic recovery, but trade was cautious ahead of the 30 August election in Japan.
Toyota Motor Corp. gained after a source said it would cut its global production capacity to match lower sales, while NEC Electronics soared 11% on a report that it and merger partner Renesas Technology Corp. may get $2.1 billion in aid.
The benchmark Nikkei extended gains in the afternoon to rise 1.4%, encouraged by a rise in Chinese stocks, market players said, with some saying big buy orders in the cash market appeared to have further lifted the index.
“There’s no mistake that the economy is on a recovery track from both the macro and micro perspective and the market is in an upward trend,” said Junichi Misawa, senior fund manager at STB Asset Management.
Latest upbeat data included the Conference Board’s August index of consumer confidence that topped economists’ forecasts, while the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose for a second consecutive month in June, suggesting improvement in two sectors crucial for a US recovery.
“But investors can’t aggressively keep pushing the market higher because of uncertainty about exit strategies (from unusual policy measures world governments have taken) and because Japan is highly likely to have a change in the government,” Misawa said.
The benchmark Nikkei gained 147.14 points to 10,644.50, and at one point climbed as as high as 10,650.80, its highest level since 6 October.
The broader Topix added 1.2% to 976.23.
Analysts said domestic investors were reluctant to actively take positions ahead of the result of Sunday’s election, which many expect Japan’s opposition Democratic Party to win. But some say the election is already a neutral trading factor.
Opinion polls show the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan set for a sweeping victory on Sunday that would end more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
A solid win for the Democrats would raise the chances of clearing a policy deadlock in parliament, where the opposition controls the upper house.
Foreign investors have been net buyers of Japanese stocks each week for the last month or so, and market analysts say their interest may grow even more if the Democrats win.
Toyota, NEC Electronics advance
Exporters, which had weighed on the Tokyo market on Tuesday, rose on short-covering, with Honda Motor Co. up 1% to 3,020 yen and Kyocera Corp. climbing 2.2% to 7,770 yen.
Toyota rose 1.5% to 4,110 yen after the Nikkei business daily said the automaker would cut its annual global production capacity by 10%, or 1 million vehicles, and return to an operating profit in the 2010 financial year.
But the source said the extent and timing of the production cuts had not yet been set.
“The idling of plants had been a negative factor for Toyota, so the fact they’re moving to tackle this should be evaluated favourably,” said Yumi Nishimura, deputy general manager of the investment advisory section of Daiwa Securities SMBC.
NEC Electronics soared 11.4% to 980 yen.
Mobile phone operator Softbank advanced 3.7% to 2,095 yen after Nikko Citigroup raised its target price to 2,080 yen from 2,050 yen and changed its risk rating on the company to “medium risk” from “speculative” while reiterating its “hold” rating.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan’s biggest heavy machinery company, extended gains to 4.3% or 387 yen after saying it aims to start mass production of lithium-ion batteries for industrial use in late 2012.