The Nikkei stock index gained 0.93 percent Wednesday as buying was propelled by a stronger U.S. dollar giving some exporter shares a lift, although trade remained thin ahead of the conclusion of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index gained 139.83 points to finish at 15,115.80, while the Topix index of all first-section issues ended up 10.95 points, or 0.88 percent higher, to close at 1,249. 15.
Traders here said that the U.S. dollar had gained ground on hopes the outcome of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting will reveal positive cues about the health of the U.S. economy, and the yen, separately, was further weakened by Japan's ongoing trade deficit.
A government report released just before the markets opened showed that exports dropped in May for the first time in 15 months, owing to slumping demand from U.S. and Asian markets, dropping 2.7 percent as imports retreated 3.6 percent.
The Finance Ministry here said Japan's trade deficit narrowed to 909 billion yen (around 8.9 billion U.S. dollars) from a year earlier, with local analysts stating the news was a negative for the market today, and from a broader perspective pointed to a lack of competitiveness of Japanese products overseas.
But the yen's weakness is always a boon for exporters, despite the poor trade data, as overseas profits are boosted when repatriated, but analysts noted that some investors hit the sidelines ahead of news from the Fed, in a wait-and-see mood.
"The yen has moved in a positive direction for Japanese stocks. But we may be surprised by the Fed's decision, so it's hard to take much action before that," said Kenichi Hirano, an analyst at Tachibana Securities Co.
Market players said they were wary, however, that if the outcome of the Fed's two-day meeting was circumspect about its monetary policy going forward, then U.S. shares would likely fall and Japanese issues would duly mirror them.
Median analysts here predict that the Fed will reduce the pace of its monthly asset purchases by 10 billion U.S. dollars to 35 billion U.S. dollars, with hopes high for a departure from zero interest rates, which will send the yen lower and make Japanese issues more attractive.
With the U.S. dollar fetching 102.27 yen in Tokyo currency markets, compared with 102.13 yen logged late in New York, export- related issues advanced with Toyota, the world's largest carmaker, accelerating 1.06 percent to 5,884 yen.
Camera maker Canon added 0.32 percent to 3,402 yen and consumer electronics maker Panasonic also closed in positive territory, jumping 3.4 percent to close the day at 1,232 yen.
Heavily weighted mobile phone and service provider SoftBank gained 1.69 percent to close at 7,610 yen, but optics and imaging firm Nikon weighed on the market, slumping 2.6 percent to 1,616 yen, following JPMorgan reduced its rating on the stock from " neutral" to "underweight," on concerns of the firm's current and future prospects relating to the medical side of its business and its plans to boost sales in that area.
Trading volume on Wednesday rose to 1.87 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Tuesday's volume of 1.67 billion shares, with advancing issues outpacing declining ones by 1,273 to 410.