Japanese stocks blow past 1990 high as economic recovery speeds up

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Japan’s Nikkei 225 rallied past 30,000 points for the first time since 1990 on Monday as the country’s growing economic momentum on improving global demand helped lift shares across Asia-Pacific.

The benchmark index jumped 1.2 per cent in early trading after data showed Japan’s economy grew 3 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter, markedly more than analysts had expected. The Topix, another Japanese equity index, added 0.7 per cent.

The “recovery should get another shot in the arm from the rollout of [Covid-19] vaccines”, said Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at research firm Capital Economics.

Monday’s rally in Japanese stocks was partly a response to the strong economic data, said Takeo Kamai, head of execution services at CLSA, adding that the positivity was also tied to broader global enthusiasm for stocks — particularly in the US, where markets have hit records this year.

Investors “probably still have a bias for further upside [for Japanese stocks] in the shorter term”, he said. “For Japan, the story is not a single-country, domestic-led kind of rally — it’s more euphoria of equities globally.”

Equity benchmarks elsewhere in Asia-Pacific rose on Monday. South Korea’s Kospi index was up 1.6 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 0.9 per cent.

Stock markets in mainland China and Hong Kong were closed for the lunar new year holiday but the offshore-traded renminbi edged up 0.1 per cent to Rmb6.411 per dollar, its strongest level since June 2018. The Chinese currency has been boosted by the country’s strong economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Oil prices climbed as the grid operator in Texas warned of possible blackouts because of artic conditions sapping electricity supplies. US marker West Texas Intermediate rose 2.3 per cent to $60.84 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent rose 2 per cent to $63.66 per barrel.

US markets are closed on Monday for Presidents’ Day, while futures for London’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.7 per cent.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin fell 2 per cent to $46,911, paring some of the gains made last week after two big US financial groups announced cryptocurrency projects.

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