Nikkei nears four-year high as Japan escapes G20 criticism

Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:20am EST
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By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average jumped 2.1 percent on Monday, led by banks and exporters as the yen softened after Japan escaped direct criticism of its aggressive monetary easing at the weekend's G20 meeting.

The Nikkei added 234.04 points to 11,407.87, close to the 4-year high of 11,498.42 it struck on February 6.

A statement issued by Group of 20 policymakers did not single out Japan, though it said members should refrain from competitive devaluations and that monetary policy should be directed only at price stability and growth.

Investors took the G20's statement as a signal to continue the one-way bets against the yen that paused last week before the meeting. On Monday, the yen was trading at 94.15 to the dollar just above a 33-month low of 94.465 struck one week earlier.

Exporters rose, with Fanuc Corp (6954.T: Quote) gaining 2.1 percent and Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote) 2.5 percent.

"At the G20 meeting, there wasn't as much criticism from emerging countries about the recent yen's weakness as feared. That spurred yen selling," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of global equities at BNP Paribas.

Shares in the financial and real estate sectors contributed to the benchmark's gains as investors took the absence of G20 criticism of Japan's reflationary policies as a sign these can be pursued without sparking friction.

Japan's top three banks were among the six most-traded stocks. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (8306.T: Quote) surged 4.9 percent, while Mizuho Financial Group Inc (8411.T: Quote) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (8316.T: Quote) added 5.0 and 4.1 percent respectively. The banking sub-index was the best-performing sector on the main board, rising 4.8 percent.   Continued...

Men walk past logos at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai