By Dow Jones Business News, March 08, 2013, 05:17:00 AM EDT
By Daniel Inman
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Japanese stocks climbed for a seventh session on Friday, reaching a fresh multiyear high,
as the yen fell against the U.S. dollar, while Hong Kong and Australian markets rose after trade figures kicked off
China's monthly economic data.
The U.S. dollar (USDJPY) was at 95.46 yen late in Asian trading, breaching its overnight high of 95.1 yen, the
dollar's strongest level against the yen since August 2009, and adding to the 0.8% gain it made on Thursday.
The dollar's latest surge came as investors anticipated more aggressive monetary policy from the Bank of Japan. The
central bank left its policy unchanged on Thursday, the last meeting for Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa.
Expectations of easing measures are higher for next month's meeting, when the man expected to become the next
governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, will be at the helm. Read: Bank of Japan stands pat ahead of new leadership
The next potential catalyst for the exchange rate between the dollar and the yen will come from the U.S., where
nonfarm-payrolls data will be released after Asian markets close.
Japanese stocks reacted well to more weakness in the yen, which pushed the Nikkei up 2.6% to 12,283.62, its highest
level since Sept. 10, 2008.
Another factor helping sentiment in Tokyo was news that Japan's economy pulled out of its 2012 downturn earlier than
The country revised up its gross-domestic-product figures for the October-to-December period to show a 0.2% increase
in the quarter on annualized terms, compared with last month's initial reading of a 0.4% contraction. Read: Japan GDP
grows again, but current account weak
Benefiting from weaker yen
The effect of the softer yen in Tokyo was evident in technology exporters, with semiconductor firms Tokyo Electron
Ltd. and Advantest Corp. ( ATE ) up 2.7% and 4.6% respectively.
Car makers also performed well: Mazda Motor Corp. (MZDAY) jumped 5.8% and Isuzu Motors Ltd. (ISUZY) rose 4.9%.
The Nikkei's 5.8% surge this week--the index's best weekly performance since December 2011--makes the market Asia's
best performer so far in 2013, up 18.2%.
The rally in Japanese stocks, which started in the middle of November, has maintained strong momentum.
This contrasts with Chinese equities, where the rally that started late last year has lost some of its drive --
especially this week, which started with heavy selling on Monday after Beijing announced new measures to control the
property market. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite is now up just 2.2% year to date.
Chinese data points
Away from Japan, China's monthly economic data were in focus on Friday. Over the weekend, China will deliver reports
on inflation, industrial output and retail sales.
The data are important because they give investors a chance to view the pace of recovery in Asia's largest economy,
though the numbers for February could be seasonally influenced by the month the Lunar New Year fell in this year.
First up was trade data, with China saying on Friday that in February, the country recorded a $15.3 billion trade
surplus, compared with an expected deficit of $16 billion. A 15.2% on-year decline in imports overshot forecasts for a
10% drop, while exports jumped 21.8%, beating expectations for a 5% increase.
Stocks in Hong Kong were 1.4% higher after the data, though in Mainland China the Shanghai Composite was down 0.2% as
domestic investors remained cautious ahead of inflation data out over the weekend.
Australian stocks, which were flat in early trading, drifted higher after the Chinese data were released. The S&P/ASX
200 ended up 0.3% at 5123.40, with miners pushing higher: Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO) added 1.8% and BHP Billiton ( BHP )
South Korea's Kospi Composite closed less than 0.1% higher at 2006.01 and Singapore's FTSE Straits Times Index was
last down 0.3%.
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