Nikkei rises 0.3 percent on Toyota; Greece hope helps

By Aiko Hayashi

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japan’s Nikkei average rose 0.3 percent on Wednesday, supported by hopes for a bailout package for debt-ridden Greece, but the yen’s advance to a more than two-month high against the dollar weighed on some exporters.

Recall-hit Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: ) gained 3.2 percent on short-covering after a drop in its February U.S. sales of nearly 9 percent was better than expected.

But investors were reluctant to form new positions due to uncertainty over a potential bailout for Greece and ahead of U.S. jobs data due out on Friday, which may provide clues about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery after a string of mixed indicators.

“There’s a sense of hope because other countries are already holding meetings this month regarding Greece’s problems. But the plan is still unknown and that is making it hard for investors to move in one specific direction,” said Yumi Nishimura, deputy general manager at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets.

“Investors are also taking a wait-and-see approach before the jobs data as recent U.S. data has tended to come in weaker than market expectations.”

In thin trade, the benchmark Nikkei (.N225: ) rose 31.30 points to 10,253.14, while the broader Topix (.TOPX: ) added 0.3 percent to 905.65.

The dollar fell to its lowest in more than two months against the yen on Wednesday as investors cut long positions versus other currencies. Investors fret about a stronger yen because it eats into exporter profits when repatriated.

The dollar fell as far as 88.47 yen on trading platform EBS, the lowest since mid-December, before recovering to 88.85 yen.

The private ADP National Employment report for February is also due on Wednesday. It is expected to show that U.S. payrolls shed 20,000 jobs last month after losing 22,000 jobs in January, according to a median estimate from economists polled by Reuters.

Some 1.7 billion shares changed hands on the Tokyo Exchange’s first section, well below last year’s daily average of 2.3 billion shares.

Advancing stocks and declining ones were almost evenly matched, 753 to 739.

TOYOTA GAINS, RESOURCE STOCKS UP

Toyota rose 3.2 percent to 3,420 yen on the smaller-than-expected fall in sales.

“There’d been predictions of two-digit sales falls due to the recalls, so what we’ve seen today was short-covering on relief about that as well as on the Congressional hearings being over,” said Takashi Ushio, head of the investment strategy division at Marusan Securities.

Toyota officials, including president Akio Toyoda, testified before congressional committees last week and this week.

“But I think we’ll have to see the March sales figures as well before we can really relax,” added Ushio.

Shares of trading house Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T: ) and other companies that rely on commodities for profits rose on oil’s jump to a seven-week intraday high and gains in metals prices.

Mitsubishi rose 2.1 percent to 2,295 yen. Ferronickel producer Pacific Metals (5541.T: ) jumped 3.6 percent to 690 yen and smelter Sumitomo Metal Mining (5713.T: ) rose 2.5 percent to 1,317 yen.

Shares of Fast Retailing (9983.T: ) shot up 4.7 percent to 15,930 yen, after it said same-store sales at its Uniqlo fashion chain rose 1.8 percent in February from a year earlier due to solid sales of spring items.

But Daiichi Sankyo (4568.T: ) slipped 3.3 percent to 1,757 yen after majority-owned Ranbaxy Laboratories (RANB.BO: ) said it was not able to launch a generic version of a urinary drug in the United States as scheduled in the absence of final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Some exporters lost ground, with Panasonic (6752.T: ) down 1.5 percent at 1,246 yen and Toshiba Corp (6502.T: ) losing 1.3 percent to 451 yen.

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(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Nikkei rises 0.3 percent on Toyota; Greece hope helps