Nikkei rallies as weak yen pushes exporters into spotlight

Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:16pm EDT

* Nikkei gains foothold above 9,000 level
    * Weak yen against dollar boosts exporters
    * Sharp up on reported sale of factory, offices
    * Japan Tobacco recovers Wednesday's losses

    By Sophie Knight
    TOKYO, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average
climbed above the 9,000 level for the first time in a week on
Thursday morning, with exporters in focus as the yen weakened
against the dollar following strong U.S. data. 
    Exporters Toyota Motor Co, Fanuc Ltd,
Canon Inc put on between 2 and 3.4 percent as the
Japanese currency struck a one-month low against the greenback,
meaning revenues earned abroad will translate into bigger
profits when repatriated. 
    The Nikkei advanced 1.4 percent to 9,046.10, breaching both
its 200-day moving average at 8,961.07 and rising well clear of
the psychologically key 9,000 level. If it closes above 8,978.60
it will hit a five-week high.
    "This could mark a turning point for the Nikkei if the focus
switches back to exporters and large caps for a while, and away
from the defensive names that investors have focused on in
recent months," said Yasuo Sakuma, portfolio manager at Bayview
Asset Management. 
    "However, there are very few market players around this week
so there's still lots of scepticism about, and we should remain
cautious," he added.  
    Life insurers bounded ahead as improved risk sentiment
pushed yields of "safe haven" Japanese 10-year bonds to a
two-month high. Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co Ltd surged
5.2 percent to a five-week high while T&D Holdings Inc 
added 4 percent. 
    The oil and coal Topix subindex was not far
behind with a gain of 2.3 percent. 
    The sector was helped by Idemitsu Kosan Co Ltd 
jumping 6 percent after Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley upgraded
the oil refiner to "outperform" from "neutral" on Wednesday and
hiked its target price to 8,100 yen from 7,200, saying its first
quarter results had allayed fears about future earnings. 
    The benchmark index was also supported by heavyweight Japan
Tobacco Inc, which regained the 4.8 percent it lost on
Wednesday after the Australian Supreme Court upheld a new law
forcing tobacco companies to package cigarettes in plain
olive-coloured packs with no logos as part of its anti-smoking
strategy. 
    The yen eased to 79 yen against the greenback after U.S.
industrial output expanded 0.6 percent last month, the fastest
pace since April, while manufacturing showed a solid improvement
homebuilder sentiment improved to a 5-year high in July.
  
    The broader Topix climbed 1.0 percent to 755.06.
Volume was slightly low, at 46.8 percent of its full-day 90-day
average by the midday break.
    
    SURPRISINGLY STRONG? 
    Despite data showing foreign investors were net sellers of
Japanese stocks for the seventh week in a row last week, market
players said increased expectations of policy action from euro
zone leaders to tackle the region's debt crisis were
underpinning recent strength in the Nikkei. 
    The benchmark index is now just 0.6 percent off the
two-month high it hit on July 4 after putting in its best weekly
performance since February last week.
    "I think it could hold on to 9,000 as there are a lot of
events coming up in September, and statements from European
leaders have suggested that we can hope for bond purchases or a
bigger bail-out for Spain," said Ishiguro of Okasan Securities.
    Even troubled Sharp Corp managed to gain 3.6
percent, although that was after repeatedly dipping into
negative territory as investors remained unconvinced that the
company's sale of a key solar cell factory and some of its Tokyo
offices, as reported in the Yomiuri daily, could change its
fate. 
    "There are very deep, tenacious fears that Sharp will go
bankrupt, and the company is going to find it hard to stamp
those out no matter what they do," said Hideyuki Ishiguro,
senior strategist at Okasan Securities.