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Nomura Holdings Inc. and Daiwa Securities Group Inc. increased hiring of university graduates this year as a stock market rally brightens prospects for the nation’s biggest securities firms.

Nomura recruited 600 graduates for its main brokerage arm, a 20 percent increase from last year, while Daiwa boosted its intake by 24 percent to 758. SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. hired about 600, up 16 percent. The new hires are scheduled to start work on April 1, spokesmen for the companies said.

SMBC Nikko and Nomura took on more graduates than they had initially planned to secure talent as Japan’s labor market tightens and the equity market reaches a 15-year high. Stockbrokers are expected to need staff to cater to individuals who are likely to follow institutional investors and buy more equities, said recruiter Katsunobu Komizo.

“Japanese brokerages are becoming bullish as their earnings are improving and confidence in fundamentals is growing,” said Komizo, president of Executive Search Partners Co., a Tokyo-based recruitment firm.

Nomura’s freshmen will work in the brokerage, investment banking, global markets, research and compliance departments, said Kenji Yamashita, a spokesman for Japan’s biggest securities firm. It had earlier planned to hire 570 new graduates, he said.

SMBC Nikko, part of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Japan’s second-biggest bank by market value, was going to recruit 560, said spokesman Kouichi Shibata.

“We had to secure the manpower to expand the operations for individual and corporate clients as the lending and brokerage units work more closely together,” Takayuki Okuma, manager of recruiting at SMBC Nikko, said in an email.

Daiwa’s recruitment was in line with its initial plan for 750, spokesman Shinji Nakagawa said.

Under CEO Koji Nagai, Nomura is shifting the focus of its domestic brokerage to asset management from securities trading. Assets under management climbed to a record ¥105 trillion in January, and Nagai wants to expand the total to ¥150 trillion by March 2020.

The country’s labor market is the tightest in 23 years, with 1.14 jobs available to each applicant in January, government figures show. That’s beginning to translate into higher wages.

Most graduates starting at Nomura next month will receive a monthly salary of ¥232,300, about 11 percent more than their predecessors were paid a year earlier. Its domestic brokerage is raising base pay for 3,700 employees by about 2 percent on average to retain younger staff, it said in January.

The Nikkei 225 climbed 1.2 percent to 18,971 at the close of trading in Tokyo on Friday, the highest since April 2000.

Japanese institutional investors are switching to stocks as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tries to end deflation.

The Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest investor of retirement savings, will put 25 percent of its assets into Japanese equities, it said on Oct. 31. The Federation of National Public Service Personnel Mutual Aid Associations, a pension fund manager for civil servants, said last month that it will do the same.

Net income at Nomura climbed to ¥70 billion in the three months through December, the highest in seven quarters. SMBC Nikko posted profit of ¥22 billion, the highest in six quarters.

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