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Nikkei retakes 17,000 amid caution before U.S. jobs data

JIJI

Stocks closed moderately higher on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Friday amid a wait-and-see mood prior to the release of U.S. jobs data, with the benchmark Nikkei average ending above 17,000 for first time in about one month.

The 225-issue Nikkei rose 54.62 points, or 0.32 percent, to 17,014.78, its first close above 17,000 since Feb. 8. On Thursday, it gained 213.61 points.

The Topix index of all first-section issues finished up 6.30 points, or 0.46 percent, at 1,375.35, after climbing 19.44 points the previous day.

The key market gauges extended their winning streaks to a fourth session.

Tokyo stocks met with profit-taking at the outset of Friday’s trading after a recent strong rally, but their downside was limited thanks to buying on dips on the heels of recent solid movements of overseas markets, with the U.S. Dow Jones industrial average hitting a two-month high on Thursday.

In the early afternoon, stocks wiped out the losses, sending the Nikkei average above the 17,000 line. Although the market’s topside was capped as investors retreated to the sidelines to see U.S. nonfarm payrolls for February to be released later on Friday, stocks showed solid moves toward the closing.

“I think that the day’s market was stronger than expected ahead of the scheduled release of U.S. jobs data and the weekend,” said Mitsuo Shimizu, equity strategist at Japan Asia Securities Co.

“Although a risk-on mood has yet to be fully restored in the market, Tokyo stocks are gradually reappraised in terms of their valuations thanks to calmness in external factors,” such as solid movements on the U.S. market, Shimizu added.

The U.S. Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufactuturing index for February, released on Thursday, slightly fell from the previous month but was stronger than market expectations.

If U.S. nonfarm payrolls turn out to be solid, or better than expected even if only slightly, this is likely to push up the Tokyo market further by easing worries about the health of the U.S. economy, an official at a bank-affiliated securities firm said.

Rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,422 to 435 in the TSE’s first section, while 86 issues were unchanged.

Volume fell to about 2.65 billion shares from Thursday’s about 2.74 billion shares.

Smartphone-related Alps, Murata Manufacturing, Minebea and TDK were buoyant on the back of growing hopes for Apple Inc.’s new iPhone models, according to brokers.

Sharp surged 9.42 percent a day after Jiji Press reported that Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry is likely to sign an agreement to acquire the Japanese electronics maker next week.

Other major winners included oil companies Inpex and JX Holdings, automaker Toyota and mobile phone carrier SoftBank Group.

By contrast, drugmakers Ono Pharmaceutical, Shionogi and Eisai met with selling to lock in gains.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average ended up 10 points at 17,000.