Nikkei hits 10,000 for first time since August

TOKYO Fri Mar 9, 2012 2:01am EST

Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average is displayed on an electronic board outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 15, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average is displayed on an electronic board outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average .N225 topped 10,000 for the first time in seven months on Friday, buoyed by signs that Greece had avoid a messy default and by a weaker yen, which would help struggling Japanese exporters.

The benchmark index closed up 1.7 percent at 9,929.74 after trading as high as 10,007.62. It trimmed gains after some investors pocketed gains ahead of the U.S. February jobs data.

Trading volume spiked to a one-year high, with 2.65 billion shares changing hands due to settlement of March futures and options in a closely watch major "SQ" special quotation.

The Osaka Securities Exchange said after the close that Nikkei futures were settled at 9,946.46.

"The SQ is part of what we are seeing but also the beta rally continues in Japan," a trader at a foreign brokerage said. "We are still finding people who are underweight. They missed the Japan rally, so in a sense they are playing catch-up."

The slow Stochastics, a short-term momentum indicator, gave a bullish signal, indicating the Nikkei could trend higher, while another technical indicator, the moving average convergence-divergence, also looked set to turn bullish.

The yen, which slipped to a 9-1/2-month low against the dollar, boosted stocks in export-oriented firms. Sony Corp (6758.T) rose 4.3 percent, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) added 2.7 percent, Honda Motor Co (7267.T) gained 2.8 percent and Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) advanced 4.7 percent.

Steelmakers were also in demand on Friday, with the iron & steel subindex .ISTEL.T up 3.7 percent.

The iron & steel sector has risen 18.4 percent this year, versus a 28.7 percent rise for the transport equipment subindex, .ITEQP.T, home to Toyota and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), and a 56 percent surge for the securities subindex .ISECU.T.

The broader Topix .TOPX climbed 1.5 percent to 848.71.

Greece said after the Japanese market closed that 85.8 percent of private creditors had accepted its bond swap offer, which is key to securing an international bailout to avoid a disorderly default.

PULLBACK EXPECTED

Strategists expected the Nikkei to pull back in the next couple of months, due to political uncertainty in Europe.

"After (reaching 10,000) the Nikkei will be corrected in March or April," said Ryota Sakagami, chief strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities, citing elections in Greece and France during that period.

"The upside of the equities should be limited," he said, but added the Nikkei would not fall below 9,000 in the correction.

Shoichiro Yamauchi, technical analyst at Nomura, also expected the market to fall in the short-term, although he said the Nikkei may reach its short-term target of 10,500 in April.

"The advance/decline ratio shows the market is still overheated," he said.

The benchmark Nikkei has risen more than 17 percent this year, buoyed by a run of strong U.S. economic data and accommodative monetary policies by global central banks that have sent investors back into risk assets.

The yen, on the other hand, has lost more than 6 percent against the greenback this year.

Stock valuations on the Nikkei at Thursday's close imply a 0.9 percent five-year earnings-per-share compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the index as a whole, data from Thomson Reuters StarMine showed.

That means the market is pricing the index as if EPS growth will be 0.9 percent every year over that five-year period, on a compound basis. It was minus 0.8 percent eight weeks ago.

Implied five-year EPS CAGR on S&P 500 .SPX is 3.7 percent.

Investors will shift their focus to the U.S. February non-farm payrolls data due at 1330 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast 210,000 jobs were created in the United States in February compared with 243,000 new jobs in January, while the unemployment rate is seen at 8.3 percent, unchanged from the January rate.

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; editing by Miral Fahmy)

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