Japanese stocks stretched ever higher in early Friday action, as the Nikkei Average moved decisively above the 19,000 level for the first time since 2000, back before the global dot-com bust. About 30 minutes into the trading day, the Nikkei Average was 0.8% higher at 19,134, adding to a 1.4% rise the previous day, while the Topix enjoyed a 0.4% advance of its own. With strong gains overnight on Wall Street, and with the dollar improving to �121.40 vs. �121.09 at the previous Tokyo stock close, tech exporters saw strong buying interest: Seiko Epson Corp. rose 1.1%, Advantest Corp. added 1.2%, Casio Computer Co. tacked on 2.2%, and Hitachi Ltd. climbed 1.6% (though Sony Corp. fell 1.1%). Among the industrials, robot-maker Fanuc Corp. was the star, rising 9.7% after a Nikkei report said it planned to return more money to shareholders in the near future. Financials were broadly higher, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. up 0.9% (extending an advance from the previous session, which Dow Jones Newswires attribtued to hopes for higher U.S. interest rates), while Credit Saison Co. added 2.1%, and Nomura Holdings Inc. moved 1.5% higher. Shares of Kansai Electric Power Co. got a boost from another Nikkei report, this one saying the utility had secured initial approval to build two coal plants that would mark Kansai's first major foray into the greater Tokyo market. And on the downside, shares of Honda Motor Co. traded fractionally lower after the car maker said it was launching an ad campaign to encourage owners of recalled models with defective airbags to get them repaired. Shares of the airbags' maker, Takata Corp. , rose 0.6%, though they are down more than 10% for the year to date.
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