The Nikkei stock index jumped 0.76 percent to an eight-month closing high Thursday, as the yen's depreciation against the U.S. dollar spurred buying, while hopes for the Bank of Japan to roll out fresh monetary easing measures continued to underpin the market in the wake of a slew of lackluster domestic economic data recently.
The Nikkei 225 index gained 120.42 points to finish at 15,909.20, marking its highest close since Jan. 10, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange added 4.45 points, or 0.34 percent, to close at 1,311.24. "The economies in the U.S. and Japan are diverging and so are their monetary policies, and this is weakening the yen,"said Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. "The currency touching a six-year low against the dollar is improving exporters' price competitiveness and will help them increase overseas sales, ultimately feeding through to their earnings,"Akino noted.
Following a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda earlier Thursday, speculation was rife that talks were centered around more monetary easing from the central bank, following a slew of downbeat domestic economic data, including Wednesday's disappointing GDP report showing the economy shrank an annualized 7.1 percent in April-June from the previous quarter, topping a preliminary estimate. "It was natural for investors, especially those overseas, to think that the BOJ would ease monetary policy further as the meeting followed a series of weak data for the Japanese economy," said Toshikazu Horiuchi, equity strategist at IwaiCosmo Securities Co.
In afternoon trade, the U.S. dollar was changing hands 107 yen mark, at its highest level since the September 2008 financial crisis.
Subsequently exporters got a boost, with consumer electronics giant Sony adding 2.7 percent to 2,104, following the U.S.' Viacom agreeing to provide more than 20 of its networks, including Comedy Central and MTV, for the Japanese firm's upcoming online television service.
Apple suppliers Japan Display jumped 3.57 percent to close at 608 yen, while Taiyo Yuden leapt 3.70 percent to finish at 1,147 yen, following Apple Inc. unrolling two new larger iPhones and an iWatch.
Oki Electric was very much in the spotlight Thursday, surging 7. 2 percent to 254 yen, following the electronic device maker raising its first-half profit forecast to 5.5 billion yen (51.4 million U.S. dollars) from 1 billion yen and doubling its operating income outlook to 6 billion yen for the period ending Sept. 30, citing robust demand for its ATMs from China.
Among automaker issues, Toyota, the world's largest carmaker, accelerated 0.8 percent to 6,218 yen and Nissan Motor Co. gained 1. 1 percent to 1,053 yen. Suzuki Motor, for its part, added 3.1 percent to close the day at 3,632 yen.
Heavily weighted Nikkei issue SoftBank helped prop-up the market, leaping 2.9 percent to 8,180, following news of enthusiastic demand for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's initial public offering, a sale that could hit a record 24.3 billion U.S. dollars, with the valuation of the firm making Alibaba the third most valuable IT firm after Facebook and Google. SoftBank owns a 34 percent stake in Alibaba Group Holdings.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. also found favor Thursday, surging 6. 8 percent to 1,178 yen, as one of its nuclear reactors will likely be brought back online before the end of the year, as Japan's nuclear watchdog has confirmed two of its plant's reactors have cleared new, stricter government safety checks.
Kansai Electric Power Co. gained 3.5 percent to 1,034 yen after reports that Japan's nuclear regulators will also green light the restart of some of its reactors idled in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Trading volume on Thursday increased to 2.13 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Wednesday's 1.94 billion shares, with declining issues beating advancing ones by 840 to 817.