Japan's Nikkei stock index closed up 0.90 percent and extended its run of closing sessions to four on Monday as the yen's retreat spurred bargain hunters to go after a range of currency-related and heavily weighted issues.
Brokers said that Japanese government data released just prior to the markets opening this morning and showing that industrial production unexpectedly fell a seasonally adjusted 2.3 percent in February from the previous month for the first decline in three months.
The figure was worse than the 0.3-percent increase predicted by median analysts and led the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to maintain its basic assessment, saying "industrial production continues to show an upward movement."
The index of production at factories and mines stood at 101.5 against a 2005 baseline of 100, the ministry said, but local traders here said that while the data coming in far lower than expected was something to factor into future positions, it wouldn' t affect Monday's buyback momentum.
Brokers said the U.S. dollar's rise to the upper end of the 102 yen-level encouraged investors to buyback issues that were oversold last week and it was this sentiment that directed the market Monday, rather that the nation's factory output.
"Buyback momentum trumped the data, said Tachibana Securities market analyst Kenichi Hirano. "Individual traders slowly came off the sidelines to buy stocks again after several weeks of reticence as valuations remain relatively cheap."
"Both the weakening of the yen and the improvement of U.S. consumer sentiment will be positive for Japanese stocks today," said Kenichi Hirano, a Tokyo-based market analyst at Tachibana Securities Co. "There's a strong likelihood the market direction has changed."
The Nikkei Stock Average added 131.80 points from Friday at 14, 827.83, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange gained 16.37 points, or 1.38 percent, to finish the day at 1,202.89.
Among Japan's automakers, Honda, accelerated 2.3 percent to 3, 634 yen, while Nissan Motor gained or 2.2 percent to 920 yen.
Games console maker Nintendo Corp. advanced 2.2 percent to 12, 260 yen on the yen's retreat, but consumer electronics behemoth Sony leapt 4 percent to 1,972 yen, following Bank of America Corp.' s Merrill Lynch unit reiterating its "buy" rating on firm's the stock and high hopes for the firms new CEO going forward.
Steelmakers found favor, with JFE Holdings rising 2.2 percent to 1,943 yen, while Kobe Steel Ltd. jumped 3 percent to 137 yen. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. meanwhile, added 1.8 percent to close the day at 282 yen.
Accordia Golf Co. was among the notable decliners on the first trading day of the week. The golf firm plunged 9.2 percent to 1, 160 yen, following news it plans to sell 90 of its 133 golf courses and take out a 20 billion yen loan to refinance the deal.
Trading volume on Monday dropped to 2.09 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Friday's volume of 2.19 billion shares, with advancing issues outpacing declining ones by 1,317 to 374.