Nikkei jumps on U.S. data, yen, hopes of Europe steps

By Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japan’s Nikkei average jumped almost 2 percent and at one point hit a fresh five-month high on Thursday, encouraged by strong U.S. economic data, a softer yen and hopes of steps in Europe to ease the sovereign debt crisis.

U.S. private-sector payrolls achieved their biggest gain in three years, according to ADP data, while global manufacturing picked up speed, boosted by China and Germany.

“Foreign funds came back today and are the driving force behind this jump, as expectations for the U.S. economy to pick up speed are high after yesterday’s data,” said Hiroaki Kuramochi, chief equity marketing officer at Tokai Tokyo Securities.

A Goldman Sachs prediction that the Nikkei will gain about 20 percent in the next year also boosted sentiment.

“We view conditions as ripe for a repeat of Japan’s outperformance in early 2010, including: a stronger US economy, inflation concerns in emerging Asia, the yen’s reversal, a continued earnings expansion, supportive valuations,” a report from the brokerage said.

Speculation that the European Central Bank could step up its purchases of government debt also supported sentiment, although currency market analysts were skeptical. A U.S. official told Reuters Washington would support boosting an EU rescue facility via IMF funds, lifting U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) on Wednesday.

Blue chips exporters led the Nikkei’s advance with construction machinery maker Komatsu Ltd jumping 4.6 percent but Toyota Motor Corp fared badly, one of the weakest Nikkei 225 component in percentage terms, after a dismal U.S. sales performance in November.

“If the rally continues like this the Nikkei could finish this year around 10,500,” said Kuramochi, adding that immediate resistance lies at its June 21 high of 10,251.90 and which may be pierced later in the week.

The Nikkei made its biggest daily gain in two weeks, adding 1.8 percent or 180.47 points to 10,168.52. At one stage it jumped 2 percent, hitting a fresh five-month intraday high of 10,187.59.

The broader Topix index was 1.3 percent higher at 877.21.

Some 1.9 billion shares changed hands on the Tokyo exchange’s first section, on par with last week’s closing average. Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by more than 5 to 1.

The yen fell across the board on Wednesday as the euro and higher yielding currencies staged a sharp rebound and the dollar also gained on the Japanese currency.

TOYOTA TROUBLES

The benchmark index rallied 8 percent in November, its best monthly performance since March, with foreigners shifting funds back to lagging Tokyo equities after U.S. monetary easing lifted expectations of more liquidity in financial markets.

“Investors were underweight on Japan stocks for a long time. They are shifting away from emerging markets to Japan now,” said Mattia Ciancaleoni, director of equity sales at Citigroup.

Toyota’s shares, the most actively traded by turnover on the main board, fell 0.6 percent to 3,290 yen.

In contrast to a 17 percent climb for U.S. industry-wide auto sales, Toyota’s sales dropped 3 percent in November. It has also told U.S. dealers it will pay for a secondary repair related to a massive safety recall on its top-selling Camry for sticking accelerator pedals.

Skymark Airlines Inc, Japan’s third-largest carrier, rallied 4 percent to 1,043 yen after saying it plans to hire hundreds of new staff from those who have left restructuring Japan Airlines.

The pace of growth in U.S. manufacturing tapered off slightly in November, though the sector still posted its 16th consecutive month of expansion, according to an industry report released on Wednesday.

The U.S. government’s monthly employment report on Friday is forecast to show another month of job gains in both the private and public sectors. In a Reuters poll, nonfarm payrolls are seen up 140,000 in November while private payrolls are seen up 153,000..

(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa and Aiko Hayashi; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Nikkei jumps on U.S. data, yen, hopes of Europe steps