TOKYO: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 has closed at a 15-year high, sitting at a level last seen when Sony’s groundbreaking PlayStation 2 hit the shelves, the Dot-com bubble was collapsing and Bill Clinton still occupied the White House.
The benchmark index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Thursday rose 0.36 per cent, or 65.62 points, to 18,264.79, its best finish since May 2000, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares climbed 0.83 per cent, or 12.26 points, to 1,494.93.
Wall Street closed nearly flat on Wednesday, but Tokyo has been taking a strong lead from the US, where shares have been hitting new records, while a sharply weaker yen has inflated profits for many of Japan’s biggest firms.
Buying was boosted on Thursday by upbeat Japanese trade data and cautious optimism over a solution to the Greek debt standoff.
“Easing concerns over the Greek problem, a strong US stock market, and the yen’s relative weakness – overall market conditions are upbeat,” Hiroaki Hiwata, a strategist at Toyo Securities, said.
The Nikkei finished 2014 just short of its highest level since before the global financial crisis and in 2013 surged 57 per cent – its best annual return in four decades, helped by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth blitz.
The Nikkei was below 10,000 when Abe came to power.
In 2000, Japan was about a decade into a long-term economic malaise after a property and stock market bubble drove the Nikkei to an all-time high of almost 39,000 in the last days of 1989.
“This level could be viewed as the winding-up of Japan’s lost two decades,” Hiwata said.
Shortly before Tokyo opened on Thursday, official data showed that surging exports helped cut Japan’s trade deficit by more than half in January, a day after the central bank said the world’s third-largest economy was on the mend.