Nikkei hits 15-year high on earnings, shareholder returns hopes

domingo 15 de marzo de 2015 22:02 GYT
 

* Japan seen as among biggest beneficiaries of cheap oil
    * Banks, real estate companies lead gains
    * Investors hope for higher shareholder returns after Funuc
move
    * Drugmakers succumb to profit-taking

    By Hideyuki Sano
    TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up to hit
a 15-year high on Monday, with financial and real estate
companies leading the gains, as investors bet on steady
improvement in the Japanese economy and increased shareholder
returns.
    The Nikkei share average rose 0.3 percent to
19,309.23, hitting a 15-year intraday high at one point and
extending its gain so far this year to almost 11 percent,
outpacing many other markets.
    "The market has been experiencing the best earnings estimate
revisions of all the major markets. And I expect robust earnings
growth to continue for the next 18-24 months," said Tristan
Hanson, head of asset allocation at Ashburton Investments in
London.
    Domestic demand-oriented shares, such as banks and real
estate companies shone on Monday, as Japan is seen as one of the
biggest beneficiaries of weak oil prices, with the country's net
oil imports at 4.2 percent - the highest ratio among major
developed countries.
    Bank shares gained 1.6 percent, the top performer
among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's 33 industry subindex.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 2.0 percent and
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group climbed 2.3 percent.
    Real estate company shares broke above their
November peak to hit the highest level since January last year.
    Mitsubishi Estate gained 1.4 percent while Mitsui Fudosan
 rose 1.2 percent.
    "Rises in bank and other domestic demand-oriented shares
symbolises an improved confidence that the economy is getting
out of deflation," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at
Monex Securities.
    Investors are also becoming more optimistic on higher
shareholder returns after industrial robot maker Fanuc,
long known for its limited engagement with shareholders, said
last week it is considering dividend hikes and more dialogues
with investors. 
    Fanuc added 0.6 percent to hit a new record high, after its
massive 13.2 percent gain on Friday.
    The improved mood has also been underpinned by expectations
that Japanese public investors, such as the $1.1 trillion
Government Pension Investment Fund and Japan Post, will keep
increasing stock investment under the auspices of Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe.
    Officials said on Saturday that the government plans to name
the currency head of the GPIF, Takahiro Mitani, to another term
as the fund's chairman. 
    The broader Topix rose 0.2 percent while the
JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also advanced 0.2 percent.
    Investors took profits in other recent gainers such as
drugmakers, with pharmaceutical companies down 0.9.

 (Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Shri
Navaratnam)