Singapore: Japanese stocks jumped nearly 4% on Tuesday amid reports of progress in stabilising an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant, and the yen was broadly weaker on the prospects for further intervention by major central banks.
Shares elsewhere in Asia posted modest gains, after bouncing on Monday when Tokyo markets were closed for a holiday. Support came from US stocks, which were buoyed on Monday by AT&T’s move to buy Deutsche Telecom .
“People are getting a bit more relaxed, the Japan situation seems to be getting under control and it is a case for rebuilding now,” said Martin Angel, a dealer at Patersons Securities in Australia.
Oil prices edged up, following a 1% rise in the previous session as widening unrest in the Middle East intensified fears of supply disruptions.
Gold also edged higher supported by a weak dollar and violence in the Middle East that boosted its safe-haven appeal.
MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3%, bolstered by arise in the Dow Jones industrial average and broader S&P 500 of 1.5%.
Tokyo’s Nikkei share average rose close to 4% in early dealings before edging back to stand up over 3%. Nikkei futures traded in Osaka and Chicago posted similar gains.
“Global value funds together with long-only investors are piling right in the middle of the index today, chasing big, liquid stocks attracted by cheap valuations,” said Tetsuro Ii, CEO of Commons Asset Management.
The Nikkei is trading at a price-to-book ratio of 1.1, appealing to value investors , compared with 2.2 for the US benchmark S&P 500, Thomson Reuters Starmine data shows.
The Nikkei is down around 7.5% from its close on March 11, the day northeastern Japan was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a 10-metre tsunami that left at least 21,000 people dead or missing and crippled a nuclear power plant.
On Tuesday, technicians working inside an evacuation zone around the stricken plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo had managed to attach power cables to all six reactors and start a pump at one of them to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods.
But rising smoke and haze from two of the most threatening reactors suggested the battle to avert a disastrous meltdown was far from won, and mounting evidence of radiation in vegetables, water and milk stirred more concerns about the long-term impact.
The yen traded around ¥81.00 per dollar and it eased against the euro to around 115.20.
Last week, expectations insurance firms and others would repatriate yen to pay for quake reconstruction drove the Japanese currency to a record ¥76.25 per dollar before the Group of Seven rich nations stepped in on Friday.
The dollar on Tuesday skidded as investors embraced leveraged risk trades in stocks and commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian dollar .
The euro rose to highs not seen since November at $1.4240 , while the dollar index broke down through support at 75.631, the low hit in the aftermath of the Federal Reserve’s second round of quantitative easing.
“Though much of the focus has been on JPY and the chances of further coordinated intervention, the USD is barely able to defend itself,” said David Watt, a senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
Benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond futures fell 0.27 point to 139.47, while the 10-year yield edged up 0.4 basis point to 1.245%.
“I expect the 10-year JGB yield will move around 1.2%. I was selling JGBs last week but I started to buy a little bit this week,” said a fund manager at a U.S. asset management firm.
“The earthquake is going to have a big impact on the macro economy. We are going to see soft economic data in coming months. Reconstruction demand will not come until a few months later and power shortage is likely to curtail growth.”
US crude oil futures rose 34 cents to $102.67 a barrel and Brent crude rose 20 cents to $115.16. Gold rose to around $1,430 an ounce.