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Weaker yen helps Nikkei retake 17,000

JIJI

Stocks turned higher on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Friday backed by the yen’s easing against the dollar, enabling the benchmark Nikkei average to retake 17,000.

The 225-issue Nikkei average gained 110.42 points, or 0.65 percent, to end at 17,002.75. On Thursday, the key market gauge lost 108.65 points.

The Topix index of all first-section issues finished up 11.44 points, or 0.84 percent, at 1,366.05, after shedding 9.59 points the previous day.

After moving around the previous day’s closing levels in early morning trading, Tokyo stocks attracted buying from investors who took heart from the dollar’s advance above ¥113. Gains led by export-oriented issues, such as automakers and machine manufacturers, helped the Nikkei average top the 17,000 line by midmorning.

But the market lost steam toward the morning close in thin trading amid many overseas investors taking Easter breaks, with the Nikkei failing to stay above the threshold.

The key price gauge, however, recovered the line in the afternoon, thanks to reinvigorated dividend-seeking buying ahead of the ex-dividend day on Tuesday, brokers said.

“The yen’s easing has brightened investor sentiment and activated buying of shares that have become affordable recently,” said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Naito Securities Co.

A bank-affiliated securities firm official pointed out that the day’s market was lifted by individual investors’ stepped-up purchases of shares in insurers, who pay mid-term and term-end dividends all at once at the end of a fiscal year.

But due to the long Easter weekend starting Friday, Tokyo stocks gained little support from overseas investors.

“The market’s topside was also capped by worries about Japanese firms’ earnings in the next fiscal year” amid slowdowns in China, Brazil and other emerging economies, Tabei added.

Rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,018 to 794 on the TSE’s first section, while 136 issues were unchanged.

Volume fell to about 1.81 billion shares from Thursday’s about 2 billion shares.

Among automakers, Toyota, Fuji Heavy and Mazda attracted hefty buying. Machinery manufacturers Okuma, Kubota and Komatsu rose markedly.

Electronics parts producer Murata Manufacturing and industrial robot maker Fanuc jumped.

Trading houses Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Itochu, Sumitomo and Marubeni rebounded after sharply falling the previous day.

By contrast, general contractors, including Kajima, Taisei and Obayashi, shed gains after peer Kumagai Gumi revised down its earnings estimates for the current fiscal year.

Cooking recipe website operator Cookpad dived 13.42 percent amid turmoil in its management team.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average was up 150 points at 16,870.