Japan Stocks Zoom To Fresh 15-year High

MarketWatch Pulse

Japanese stock barreled higher in early Wednesday trading, with the Nikkei Average up 0.9% at 20,078, reclaiming the 20,000 level and setting a new 15-year record high. The broader Topix improved by 0.8%, while the dollar sat just slightly above where it was when Tokyo stocks last traded (at �119.74 vs. �119.51). Trade data released ahead of the open offered some support to sentiment, as Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in almost three years, thanks in large part to a dive in imports as oil prices moved sharply lower. The biggest exporters were generally higher, with Sony Corp. up 1.6%, Panasonic Corp. up 1.2%, Nikon Corp. up 2.5%, and Sharp Corp. up 1.2% as it looked set to seal a deal for a major cash infusion from its creditors. Shares of Hitachi Ltd. rose 2.3%, while those of Mazda Motor Corp. added 1.8%, as both companies were named in a Nikkei news report saying robust foreign demand would drive the pair to post record profits for the fiscal year ended in March. (Then again, Yamato Holdings Co. -- also named in the report -- saw its stock slip 0.2%.) After rallying Tuesday on a price-target hike from Goldman Sachs, shares of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. extended their advance, rising 3%. This seemed to spread to the other two Japanese "megabanks" -- Mizuho Financial Group Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. , up 1.4% and 4.3%, respectively. Shares of Softbank Corp. climbed 2%, with Dow Jones Newswires reporting the Japanese telecom's U.S. unit Sprint Corp. would provide network access for Google Inc.'s planned wireless service, due to be announced as early as later Wednesday. Yahoo Japan Corp. was up 1.7% as parent Yahoo Inc. said it had hired advisers to "maximize value" from its holdings in the Japanese web portal, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

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