Japan's Nikkei stock index edged up or 0.25 percent on Friday as solid earnings from some Japanese bellwether firms and optimism about the health of the U.S. economy following the latest jobless claims data combined to lift sentiment.
Traders here said the U.S. Labor Department's latest statistics showing that initial jobless claims fell to 319,000, 26, 000 less claims from the previous week's revised level of 345,000, helped send U.S. shares higher overnight and inspired a modicum of faith in investors here in the U.S.'s choppy job market, as the claims were less than median economists' predictions.
Analysts also said that investors were motivated by some solid earnings by large corporations here, with Soichiro Monji, a chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. stating that, " Shares have rebounded after the Nikkei fell toward 14,000, which I see as a resistance level. Another driver for the market is earnings. Yesterday's results weren't super, but many of them were relatively good."
But others noted that amid a lack of fresh longer term cues, the market may remain range bound until the government unveils its economic strategy next month.
Naoki Fujiwara, a fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management, said that many of the earnings reports have already been factored in to players' positions and with currency moves between the yen and the U.S. dollar being largely static, the market was awaiting new incentives like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's announcement on economic strategy for the country going ahead, expected to be made in June.
The Nikkei Stock Average gained 35.81 points from Thursday to close the week at 14,199.59, while the broader Topix index added 5. 50 points, or 0.47 percent, to finish at 1,165.51.
Toyota Motor gained traction, following the world's largest automaker announcing its operating profit had jumped by a record 74 percent, with the firm's stock gaining 0.6 percent, and camera maker Canon advanced 1.9 percent to 3,252 yen on news of a massive share buyback plan.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was a notable advancer on the last trading day of the week, surging 6.8 percent to 566 yen, following the firm reporting a net income of 130 billion yen for the current fiscal year, far higher than analysts' expectations.
Pump maker Ebara was also in the spotlight, jumping 7.5 percent to 644 yen, after reporting its net income for the year will increase by 5.4 percent to 20 billion yen.
Electric component maker Mitsumi Electric Co. leapt 5.8 percent to 691 yen, following the firm announcing a preliminary net income of 3.2 billion yen, far higher than the 1.17 billion yen predicted by analysts.
Among financial issues, Shinsei Bank gained 4.9 percent after announcing its expects more than a 35 percent jump in its operating profit this year.
But e-commerce giant Rakuten weighed on the market, retreating 5.5 percent to 1,228 yen, following the firm announcing its quarterly profit had dropped 1.5 percent, more than median analysts' expectations.
Trading volume on Friday rose to 1.94 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Thursday's volume of 1.78 billion shares, with advancing issues outnumbering declining ones by 1,053 to 608.