Japan Stocks Find Their Way Higher, With Banks Strong

MarketWatch Pulse

After a mildly soft start, Japanese stocks returned to their winning ways early Monday, with the Nikkei Average up 0.3% to claim a fresh 15-year high, and the Topix improving by 0.1%. A day ahead of a Bank of Japan decision expected to result in no major policy change, financial shares were broadly higher, with the three megabanks all climbing (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. up 1.8%, Mizuho Financial Group Inc. up 0.8%, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. up 2.5%), while Nomura Holdings Inc. added 1%, and Orix Corp. rallied 3%. Meanwhile, the Japanese yen remained little changed against the U.S. dollar (which was buying �121.39), the tech exporters were mixed: Toshiba Corp. rose 0.6%, and Kyocera Corp. added 0.7%, but Sharp Corp. lost 1.2%, and Hitachi Ltd. pulled back by 0.3%. Shares of Nintendo Co. added 1.4% after NPD data out at the end of last week showed U.S. revenue from its portable 3Ds device more than doubling in February. But rival Sony Corp. sank 2.1%, as NPD reported a 5% drop last month in PlayStation, Xbox and other gaming consoles. Auto stocks were mixed, with Nissan Motor Co. edging 0.2% higher, while Honda Motor Co. fell 0.5%, getting no apparent help from a Nikkei news report updating progress on the HondaJet, which a Honda executive described a the "luxury sports car" of small passenger jets. HondaJet deliveries are expected to start later this year, the report said. Weakness for oil prices lifted Japan Airlines Co. by 0.6% and ANA Holdings Inc. by 0.9%, with a separate Nikkei report said JAL was losing customers on a key domestic route to ANA's budget carrier Vanilla Air.

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