Nikkei rises to one-week high on softer yen, solid Wall Street

Ayai Tomisawa
Pedestrians taking shelter from snow stand in front of an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average rose to a one-week high on Monday morning, moving further away from a four-month low hit last week as gains on Wall Street and a softer yen underpinned sentiment.

Analysts said that foreign investors including macro funds are cautiously stepping back to buy recently-battered Japanese stocks as they keep an eye on key events this week. New Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivers her first testimony to the House on Tuesday and the senate on Thursday.

"In the short-term, investors are covering their short positions as risk appetite has come back," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a strategist at Mizuho Securities. "But they are not yet confident about further market rises until they get assurance for U.S. policy and growth at Yellen's testimony this week."

The Fed's tapering of its massive bond-buying programme was partly responsible for a renewed selloff in emerging markets recently, and Kuramochi said investors will be keen to hear Yellen's views on the stimulus-tapering and ructions in developing economies.

The Nikkei advanced 1.2 percent to 14,634.01 in mid-morning trade after rising as much as 14,659.97 earlier, the highest since February 3. The index has comfortably moved back to trade above its 200-day moving average after it breached the line to hit a four-month low of 13,995.86 last week.

In the United States, data on Friday showed nonfarm payrolls added 113,000 jobs in January - well shy of the forecast for 185,000. The U.S. unemployment rate in January hit a five-year low of 6.6 percent.

Strong job gains in construction hinted that cold weather was probably not a major factor in January job creation, and Wall Street gained as traders appeared to expect that the January numbers will be revised upward next month.

On Monday, exporters bounced after the dollar bought 102.65 yen, the highest since late January.

Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> gained 1.3 percent, while Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> surged 1.5 percent.

Olympus Corp <7733.T> jumped 5.3 percent to a one-month high after the company said its operating profit for the April-December quarter more than doubled to 49.8 billion yen.

The Topix rose 0.9 percent to 1,199.92, with 30 of its 33 subsectors in positive territory.

On the losing ledger, Asahi Glass <5201.T> tumbled to 7.7 percent to 538 yen, the lowest since November 2012 after the glassmaker said its operating profit for the year through December 2014 will likely fall 6.1 percent on the year to 75 billion yen.

The JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index launched this year comprised of firms with high return on equity and strong corporate governance, rose 0.8 percent to 10,819.88.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)