Tokyo’s Nikkei closes slightly higher


Tokyo | AFP

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index closed slightly higher on Tuesday following another record finish for the Dow as Washington accelerates its vaccination programme, fuelling hopes for further economic recovery.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.16 percent, or 48.18 points, to 29,432.70, rising for a fourth straight session. But the broader Topix index fell 0.78 percent, or 15.48 points, to 1,977.86.

Shares faced selling pressure in early trade on the ex-dividend date near the end of the current fiscal year, as they started trading without the value of their next dividend payment.

“But market sentiment remains intact, backed by positive news, including vaccines in the US,” Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities, told AFP.

Investors cheered US President Joe Biden’s announcement of additional measures to boost vaccination efforts, stoking hopes for a swift return of economic activities.

They also welcomed news that a mega-ship had been unwedged after blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week.

Shortly before the market opened, the Japanese government announced that the nation’s unemployment rate in February stood at 2.9 percent, flat from the previous month.

Investors continued to digest warnings on Monday from two major financial institutions, Japan’s Nomura and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse, who could face significant losses following reports of their exposure to a US fund that liquidated billions in stocks last week.

Nomura Holdings lost 0.66 percent to 599 yen after plunging more than 16 percent on Monday.

Finance sector shares will see “nervous trade in the immediate term”, Okasan Online Securities said.

“But overall hopes for a general economic recovery are seen providing support for the market,” it added.

The yen was at its weakest since March 2020 with the dollar buying 109.95 yen in Asian afternoon trade compared with 109.78 yen in New York.

Renesas fell 0.49 percent to 1,202 yen after the chip manufacturer said it may take three to four months to fully recover from a fire at one of its plants that threatens to worsen a global semiconductor shortage plaguing automakers.

Toyota lost 1.21 percent to 8,362 yen, but Nissan gained 1.40 percent to 612.6 yen.

Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing surged 3.17 percent to 89,130 yen and SoftBank Group rose 1.01 percent to 9,172 yen.