The stock market in Japan ended mixed on Wednesday, with the benchmark Nikkei-225 index edging down 0.1% or 8 points, while the broader Topix Index gained 6 points. The markets recovered in the afternoon on the optimism that policy initiatives of the U.S and the local government will help in reviving global economic conditions. Utility and healthcare stocks propped up the market, as investors evinced interest in these shares before they turn ex-dividend from tomorrow.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index declined 8.31 points, or 0.10% to close at 8,480, while the broader Topix Index of all First Section issues gained 5.77 points, or 0.7% to close at 818. The index, mirroring the sentiment in the U.S., opened weaker and declined in early trading, but it reversed trend in afternoon as investors picked up shares going ex-dividend from tomorrow, and managed to end with marginal loss at the end. After showing some indecision in early afternoon trading, as reflected by the back and forth movement across the unchanged line in a narrow range, the index moved decisively into negative territory in late trading to close lower.
On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 82.4 billion yen in February, compared to expectations for a 13.7 billion yen deficit following a 956.9 billion yen shortfall in January. Exports during February plummeted by a record 49.9% year-over- year, the report showed, while imports fell 43.0% year-over-year to 3.443 trillion yen.
Investors evinced interest in companies whose business year will end on 31 March, as this is the last day the shares traded with rights for dividend. KDDI Corp, the second largest mobile operator in the country, gained 5.99%, and JFE Holdings, the second largest steel maker in the country, advanced 4.41%. Japan Tobacco gained 4.86%.
Banking stocks ended on a mixed note. While Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, declined 0.56%, Resona Holdings lost 1.61%, and Sumitomo Mitsui fell 1.01%, Mizuho Financial moved up 0.87%. Shinsei Bank ended lower by 2.63% as the bank stated that it is planning to raise 48.2 billion yen by issuing preferred securities in the current month as it seeks to bolster its capital base.
Exporters declined on the back of a stronger yen. Canon lost 0.52%, Sharp declined 1.56% and Sony fell 2.35%. However, automakers advanced. Toyota moved up 1.27% and Honda Motor gained 0.43%.
Oil related stocks ended mixed. Inpex lost 3.01%, but Showa Shell moved up 0.87% and Nippon Oil advanced 1.92%. Among trading houses, Mitsubishi Corp. gained 1.02% and Sumitomo Corp. advanced 1.42%, but Itochu declined 0.19%.
Electronics maker Sanyo Electric Co. warned of a 90 billion yen net loss for the year ending March 2009, hurt by the worsening global recession. This compares to its earlier forecast that it would breakeven. The company's stock dropped 1.44%.
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