Japan's Nikkei stock index gained 1. 04 percent Wednesday as fresh data reinstalled faith in the health of the world's largest economy as geopolitical tensions weighing on the market abated somewhat for now.
Traders here said that in terms of both investors holding short or long term positions, the tax hike from 5 to 8 percent on Tuesday had been largely factored into the market and the central bank's moves as well as relevant macroeconomic data would be keenly eyed here for signs of economic fallout, before assuming new positions, they said.
In choppy trading Tuesday, local brokers said that trade was more focused Wednesday, helped by Wall Street's closing highs as data showed that auto sales in March rose to one of the strongest rates in years.
More importantly, they said, was the data showing manufacturing companies expanded in March at a slightly faster pace compared to the prior month, according to the Institute for Supply Management.
The institute said its manufacturing index rose to 53.7 percent from 53.2 percent in February and while the reading in the recording period was less than median market forecasts of a 53.9 percent increase, it was well above the 50 percent line which shows more companies are expanding rather than contracting. "The U.S. manufacturing data and shares in the U.S. closing higher overnight, coupled with the yen hitting its lowest level since the end of January, were exactly the kind of fresh catalysts investors were looking for," said on local equities strategist. "Japanese equities may have been oversold in the short term and too many people became bearish and while the upward trajectory of some issues sent the market higher, some players are still sidelined with sentiment improving gradually," he added.
"The investor sentiment is improving on geopolitical issues as well as global economic situations, but the improvement may be gradual for now and may lack the kind of conviction we've seen in months past. But a rebound in Russia's stocks and hopes for new stimulus measures in China are certainly helping to underpin global equities," Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a chief strategist at Mizuho Securities Co., said.
The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended up 154.33 points from Tuesday to close at 14,946.32, marking its best closing level since March 11, while the broader Topix index gained 7.11 points, or 0.59 percent, to finish at 1,211.36, extending the index's winning streak to its longest in almost a year.
Exporters got a boost from the yen's depreciation and Honda Motor Co., gained 1.2 percent to 3,662 yen, while Mitsubishi Motors accelerated 4.8 percent to 1,135 yen after saying its U.S. vehicle sales rose 70 percent to 8,996 units in March compared to the same month last year.
Other automobile-related issues also found traction Wednesday, with Toyota Motor rising 0.6 percent to 5,847 yen, while smaller rival Suzuki Motor added 1.5 percent to close at 2,742 yen.
The word's top camera maker Canon Inc. gained 1 percent to 3, 202 yen, but Renesas captured the spotlight Wednesday, surging 6 percent to 831 yen, foiling news that Apple Inc. is seeking to buy a stake in Renesas SP Drivers Inc. a subsidiary of the firm, involved with developing and selling liquid crystal display drivers, chips and controllers for small-and mid-size panels, the Nikkei said. Trading volume on Wednesday rose to 2.51 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Tuesday's volume of 2.17 billion shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 858 to 807. Enditem