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The Tokyo Stock Exchange ended 1999 on an upbeat note, with the key market gauge finishing the year higher for the first time in four years.
The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average rose 123.76 points to finish the half-day session at the year’s closing high of 18,934.34.
In a turnaround from a 9.3 percent fall in 1998, the 1999 finish showed a gain of 5,092.17 points, or 36.79 percent, for all of the year.
The New York Stock Exchange, which leaped into record territory overnight, acted as the biggest morale booster.
The market rose broadly, with information and communications issues — market darlings around the world — leading the way.
Wall Street and other markets overseas raced to their best year ever, making long-neglected Tokyo shares look attractive, particularly to foreign investors.
Nonresident investors have long remained net buyers of Japanese stocks, counting on the economic recovery and corporate restructuring programs under way in Japan.
Following the lead of foreign investors, domestic institutional investors have stepped up purchases of domestic stocks while unwinding their overseas portfolios.
Smarting from the bitter memory of foreign exchange losses, resulting from the weak showing of the dollar and the euro, corporate investors have switched away from markets overseas and into the domestic market.
The move is expected to gather momentum in the coming quarter because corporate investors will repatriate profits on foreign portfolios — the seasonal selling before they close their ledgers on the fiscal year, which ends March 31.
Enticed by the high-priced activity, skittish individual investors have also returned to the market in search of potential gains, banking on an anticipated upswing after the market kicks off 2000.
Brokerage officials and even previously bearish analysts are now painting a bright picture for the coming year.
After hitting the postbubble closing low of 12,879.97 on Oct. 9, 1997, the Tokyo market has come a long way, climbing past one major threshold after another.
Despite the rebound, however, the key market gauge is still more than half-way below the all-time high of 38,915.87 set on Dec. 29, 1988, which marked the end of the late-1980s bubble economy at home.
Major downside factors are lingering worries over the precariously fast pace of the Wall Street advance and a possible pickup in inflation in the United States.
Undeniably, the specter of a major correction on Wall Street is looming large.
Hideaki Akimoto, chief strategist with Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., is forecasting that the Nikkei will hit 22,000 toward the close of 2000, after plunging to the year’s low of around 16,500 next summer.

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