September 19, 2018 / 6:50 AM / a month ago

Nikkei hits near 8-mth high, Topix also jumps; insurers rally after US yields rise

* Topix hits 3-month highs

* Profit-taking possible when Nikkei nears 24,000 - analyst

* Utility stocks weak, Kansai Electric tumbles on dismal forecast

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei extended its gains to near eight-month highs on Wednesday as investors took heart from a strong performance in Wall Street despite lingering trade war concerns, with financial stocks rallying after U.S. yields jumped.

The Nikkei share average ended 1.1 percent higher at 23,672.52, the best closing level since late January.

Investors say that another milestone is in sight, as the Nikkei edges closer to the 24,129.34 hit on Jan. 23, a break of which will put it at the highest point since November 1991.

The broader Topix also notched a new milestone, rising 1.5 percent to hit more than a three-month high of 1,785.66. Turnover was heavy, reaching nearly 3 trillion yen.

While foreign investors have been net sellers of Japanese stocks to the tune of 7.5 trillion yen so far this year, there are some bright spots, analysts said.

“The recent strength in the Japanese market has been led by futures buying, but as you can see in increased turnover, investors are buying Japanese cash stocks, too,” said Shoji Hirakawa, chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute. “While the Japanese and U.S. economies have been strong, there has been big gaps in share prices in these markets, so investors are unwinding their short positions now.”

Analysts said the strong dollar-yen environment is also serving as a tailwind to Japanese exporters, though some think it is too early to be optimistic that long-only investors are investing in Japan.

“Whether mid-to-long term investors will start buying Japanese stocks is key,” said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.

Late Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in imports from China would go into effect next week, escalating the tit-for-tat trade spat between the world’s two largest economies.

Miura said that the Nikkei could see profit-taking when it nears the 24,000 mark.

Insurers and banks, which hunt for high-yielding products such as foreign bonds, extended their rally as U.S. treasury yields rose.

Dai-ichi Life Holdings jumped 4.2 percent, Sompo Holdings rallied 2.3 percent and T&D Holdings surged 3.5 percent after U.S. benchmark 10-year and 30-year yields both climbed to fresh four-month peaks.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group added 1.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group surged 1.7 percent.

Exporters also rose, with Kyocera Corp adding 2.6 percent, TDK Corp rising 3.3 percent and Honda Motor Co advancing 3 percent.

However, the utility sector underperformed, with Kansai Electric Power Co falling 2.2 percent after it issued a profit warning.

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