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Nikkei finishes 2015 with highest year-end close in 19 years

JIJI

Stocks gained further ground on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday, sending the key Nikkei average to its highest year-end close in 19 years.

The 225-issue Nikkei average rose 51.48 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 19,033.71, the highest year-end finish since 19,361.35 scored on Dec. 30, 1996. The key market gauge retook the 19,000 line for the first time since Dec. 17. On Tuesday, the Nikkei advanced 108.88 points.

For the whole of 2015, the average surged 1,582.94 points, or 9.07 percent.

The Topix index of all first-section issues finished up 3.91 points, or 0.25 percent, at 1,547.30, after climbing 14.17 points the previous day.

Tokyo stocks got off to a firmer start as investors took heart from an overnight rebound on Wall Street and the yen’s weakening.

Undervalued stocks attracted buybacks, pushing up the Nikkei average by up to 130 points in the early morning session. Although fewer purchases came from institutional investors in the 2015 final trading, buying from individual investors helped lift the market, brokers said.

After the morning spurt, however, the market’s topside grew heavy in the absence of fresh buying incentives.

Stocks managed to maintain their firmness for the rest of the day, although investors were reluctant to buy up ahead of the year-end and New Year holidays. The Tokyo market will be closed on Thursday and Friday.

“Stocks lost upward momentum as position-adjustment selling prior to the holidays pressured the market,” said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Naito Securities Co.

Investor sentiment improved following the rise in U.S. equities on the back of a rebound in crude oil prices and the weaker yen, but concerns about another oil sell-off persisted, brokers said.

An official of a private think tank said optimism cannot be warranted for the market after the turn of the year, citing the oil price concerns.

A bank-affiliated securities firm official said that the Nikkei average is expected to move in a range between 18,500 and 19,300 next week, with investors expected to watch closely U.S. economic indicators, such as the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing business index for December due out on Monday and Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s employment report for the same month on Wednesday.

Rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,207 to 597 in the TSE’s first section, while 131 issues were unchanged.

Volume fell to 1.49 billion shares, from Tuesday’s 1.58 billion shares.

Exporters, such as automakers Toyota and Honda and electronic parts producer Murata Manufacturing, were buoyant.

Motorcycle maker Yamaha Motor and electronics manufacturer Sony, both making drones, attracted buying on a news report that the Japanese government plans to allocate a radio wave frequency band to the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Toshiba shot up on the news that the electronics maker is seeking to sell its medical equipment business to Fuji Film.

Other major winners included electronics maker Sharp, mobile phone carrier SoftBank Group and clothing store chain operator Fast Retailing.

By contrast, Japan Post Holdings went down. So did maga-banks Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho, automaker Fuji Heavy and fishery product maker Nippon Suisan.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average rose 20 points to end at 19,000.