/

Nikkei closes at 52-month high on overseas gains

JIJI

Stocks rose Wednesday, bolstered by overnight gains in European and U.S. equities, with the Nikkei 225 average ending at a 52-month high.

The Nikkei rose 95.94 points to hit 11,468.28, its best finish since Sept. 29, 2008, after briefly topping 11,500. The Topix gained 10.09 points to end at 973.70, its highest close since Feb. 21, 2011.

A wide range of issues attracted buying from the outset of the day’s trading after key stock indexes in European and U.S. markets firmed Tuesday, partly thanks to the stronger than expected February reading of the German ZEW economic sentiment index, brokers said.

The market was also helped by the yen’s weakening after government data, released just before the opening bell, showed Japan posted a record monthly trade deficit in January.

After hitting the day’s high, the Nikkei trimmed gains as the yen strengthened somewhat.

With the yen failing to reach 95 to the dollar over the past couple of days, the market has become top-heavy, said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co.

In the afternoon, the Nikkei was confined to a narrow range while players wait for closely watched events later in the week, including talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington and the Italian general election, in addition to the Abe administration’s nomination for the next Bank of Japan governor, brokers said.

“Market players found it difficult to move until the name of the nominee for the next BOJ governor is unveiled,” Miura said.

But he also said the Nikkei could retake 11,500 if the New York market, where the key stock indexes hit multiyear highs Tuesday, rises further.

Winners topped losers 1,316 to 291 on the first section, while 93 issues were unchanged. Volume rose to 2.822 billion shares from 2.687 billion Tuesday.

Power utilities surged across the board. By contrast, Japan Tobacco fell 1.03 percent after a media report that the government’s sale of JT shares is expected to kick off within days.

JGBs lose ground

Japanese government bonds fell slightly Wednesday, mainly pressured by higher stock prices.

The lead March futures contract on 10-year JGBs closed down 0.03 point from Tuesday at 144.35.

Turnover fell to 29,124 contracts from 37,692 contracts the previous day.