Thu, 15 Apr 2021

TOKYO, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Tokyo stocks closed higher Wednesday as sentiment was underpinned by declining domestic COVID-19 cases and hopes for the possible approval this week of U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average added 150.93 points, or 0.51 percent, from Tuesday to close the day at 29,559.10.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, rose 9.69 points, or 0.51 percent, to finish at 1,904.54.

Local brokers said that global vaccine rollouts and a decline in COVID-19 cases in Japan raised hopes for the normalization of global economic activities, with investors seeking out undervalued cyclical issues, following the market's recent decline.

They added that the Japanese health ministry's possible approval of U.S. biotech firm Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for use in Japan, as early as Friday, bolstered sentiment and encouraged buying of economic sensitive shares.

"With the vaccine rollouts globally, expectations for the economic normalization is growing. That is prompting investors to buy economic sensitive shares," Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, was quoted as saying.

In terms of Japan specifically, Makoto Sengoku, senior equity market analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, said "with the vaccine hopes and a decline in novel coronavirus infections in Japan, investors have started buying shares that have been undervalued amid the pandemic."

Such shares included steelmakers and automobiles, investment strategists said, although added that bold moves weren't seen as investors hit the sidelines ahead of key U.S. jobs data due out later in the day and U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech on Thursday, for further cues about the health of the world's largest, yet pandemic-battered economy.

By the close of play, iron and steel, nonferrous metal and air transportation issues comprised those that gained the most.

Nippon Steel climbed 6.8 percent, while Kobe Steel surged 9.1 percent. JFE Holdings, meanwhile, ended the day 8.4 percent higher.

Automakers gaining ground included Honda Motor accelerating 3.6 percent, Toyota Motor adding 0.6 percent, while Nissan Motor closing 4.2 percent higher.

Takeda Pharmaceutical, responsible for the clinical trials of the Moderna vaccine and distribution in Japan, gained 3.2 percent.

Chip-related stocks came under selling pressure following recent gains and valuation concerns, with Taiyo Yuden dropping 1.3 percent, while Tokyo Electron fell 1.2 percent. Shin-Etsu Chemical, meanwhile, ended the day 2.0 percent lower.

Issues that rose outpaced those that fell by 1,338 to 776 on the First Section, while 80 ended the day unchanged.

On the main section on Wednesday, 1,206.50 million shares changed hands, dropping from Tuesday's volume of 1,292.67 million shares.

The turnover on the third trading day of the week came to 2,466.438 billion yen (23.077 billion U.S. dollars).

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