ASIA MARKETS: Nikkei Shoots Above 20,000 Mark As Asian Markets Soar

By Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

Korea, Taiwan indexes also on pace for multiyear closing highs

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Japan's benchmark index zoomed above 20,000 points on Friday, the first time in 18 months, leading broad equity gains across the region following another record close on Wall Street overnight.

The Nikkei Stock Average was the region's best performer for the second straight session, closed up 1.59% to 20,177.28, lifted by a strengthening U.S. dollar against the yen, which benefits the nation's exporters. The U.S. dollar was up 0.2% against the yen compared with Thursday's close.

"Earnings are good in Japan, Europe and America. You've got very predictable central bank policy: they don't want to shock," said Chris Weston, an analyst at IG Markets in Australia.

Both implied and realized volatility are very low he said -- in short, a strong picture.

Among key outperformers in Japan, Mitsubishi Electric (6503.TO) rose 4.4%, Yamaha Motor (7272.TO) gained 5.2% and retailer Fast Retailing (9983.TO) added 3.1%.

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But with 20,000 finally crossed, some analysts see a retreat starting as early as next week.

The former chief of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, is due to testify in front of Congress next Thursday, and "that's coming up as an X Day," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist with Monex Securities in Tokyo.

Elsewhere, Korea's Kospi and Taiwan's Taiex were also on target to reach multiyear closing highs when they finish trading on Friday. The indexes respectively rose 1.2% and 0.6%. The Kospi benefited from an increase in local investor sentiment after South Korea's first-quarter gross domestic product was revised higher.

Overnight, a rally in U.S. stocks took all three major indexes to fresh closing highs. Stocks have broadly edged higher in recent sessions on relatively low trading volumes after the end of the first-quarter earnings season, leaving investors searching for fresh catalysts.

"The thing about that U.S. lead [overnight] is that it was a strong move, which contrasted what we've seen for much of the preceding week that was limp and drifting without much conviction," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst for Australia at CMC Markets.

Asia's main outlier for stocks Friday is mainland China, whose markets have been under pressure since a private gauge of manufacturing activity released Thursday showed a contraction in May -- the first in nearly a year. But the Shenzhen and Shanghai Composite indexes rose 0.8% and 0.1%, respectively. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was 0.3% higher.

In the Philippines, the PSEi Index was up as much as 0.6% early in the trading session as the market digested overnight news that a gunman had attacked a major Manila resort and then killed himself.

The index retreated, though, after news emerged late in the morning that 36 people had been asphyxiated by a fire (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/34-reported-dead-in-botched-casino-robbery-in-philippines-2017-06-01) the gunman set as he tried to escape with more than $2 million in casino chips. It was last up 0.5%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2017 03:06 ET (07:06 GMT)