* U.S. data, optimism on BOJ encourage investors
* Yen/dollar falls to 3-1/2-year low below 95.10 yen
* Fast Retailing up 22 percent for the week
By Tomo Uetake
TOKYO, March 8 Japan's Nikkei share average
stormed to a fresh 53-month high in morning trade on Friday,
buoyed by bullish U.S. data, a rule-change for trading and
continued optimism there will be aggressive easing from the new
Bank of Japan leadership.
Market liquidity could be boosted after Japan's Financial
Services Agency said on Thursday that it would relax a
regulation, called the uptick rule, to allow stock short selling
only at a price that is higher than the last trade.
"The market welcomes the news on deregulation of short
selling because it would reduce volatility," said Kyoya Okazawa,
head of global equities and commodity derivatives at BNP Paribas
in Tokyo. "I think that's the biggest factor behind today's
strong market sentiment."
The Nikkei advanced 2.1 percent to 12,219.11, its
highest level since September 2008. It also sailed past the
settlement price of a slew of options and futures that expired
on Friday morning at 12,072.98, according to market sources.
Stocks were also supported by a weaker yen, which hit a
3-1/2-year low of 95.16 to the dollar on Friday after
strong Chinese export data boosted risk sentiment.
Fumiyuki Nakanishi, general manager of investment and
research at SMBC Friend Securities, said he believes a lot of
programme buying is taking place. "When the futures go up, that
pulls up the whole market," he said.
Investors were bullish after the BOJ raised its outlook on
Thursday, noting that Japan's economy was "bottoming out" at the
last meeting chaired by governor Masaaki Shirakawa before
successor Haruhiko Kuroda, who is expected to implement
aggressive easing, takes his place.
Sekisui House Ltd said it expects operating profit
for the year ending January 2014 to jump 28 percent due to
increases in rental agreements and new-builds. Its share price
shot up 12.2 percent.
Analysts say foreign investors continue to pile into
large-cap exporters as the yen stays soft, while retail
investors are buying smaller domestic-focused companies.
FAST RETAILING IS A STAR
Index heavyweight and operator of the Uniqlo clothing stores
Fast Retailing Co Ltd was the most-traded stock on the
main board, contributing 94 positive points to the Nikkei.
Shares of Fast Retailing, which on Monday announced strong
February sales, were 22 percent up on the week.
On Friday morning, Fast Retailing jumped 8.1 percent. The
jump stemmed from a combination of algorithm buying and margin
trading, a dealer at a Japanese brokerage said.
The broader Topix added 1.2 percent to 1,016.72 by
the midday break.
"I don't get the feeling that the market is overheated at
the moment. The Nikkei is only about 5 percent above its 25-day
moving average, but it was hovering 9 percent above it in
January," Nakanishi of SMBC Friend Securities said.
The only losers, Nakanishi added, were likely to be those
shares of companies hurt by a soft yen. The weakest sectoral
performer on Friday morning was the power utility sector
, which dropped 1.1 percent.
Convenience store operators also took a hit, with FamilyMart
Co Ltd down 1.9 percent after the Nikkei newspaper said
its operating profit for the year ended Feb. 28 was likely to
come in below its previously projected 45 billion yen, partly
due to a drop in cigarette sales. Peer Lawson Inc
slipped 0.3 percent.