The Nikkei stock index gained 0.25 percent on Wednesday despite a weak lead from Wall Street overnight as the U.S. dollar's rise to the mid-106 yen zone underpinned the market and kept the marked mood positive and able to shrug off less than stellar machinery order data.
The Nikkei 225 index added 39.63 points to finish the day at 15, 788.78, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange gained 7.17 points, or 0.55 percent, to close at 1,306.79.
Traders said that as with a day earlier it was the U.S. dollar- yen coupling that was driving trade Wednesday and again issues with a wide exposure to overseas markets, reliant on a weaker yen versus other major currencies to boost their competitiveness, profit and earnings outlooks, found traction. "The yen's weakness offset the poor machinery order data, but eyes are now firmly fixed on the Bank of Japan to see what measures it will take in light of a slew of poor economic data resulting from April's tax hike," said one local equites strategist.
"Aside from favorable currency exchanges, there aren't too many drivers pushing investors to test the market's upside," he said.
Government data showed this morning that Japan's core machinery orders increased for a second straight month in July rising 3.5 percent on month, but missed median analysts' expectations for a 4. 0 percent rise.
July's reading came on the heels of an 8.8 percent rise in June, and on a year-on-year basis orders gained 1.1 percent, the government said Wednesday.
With machinery orders being a key advance indicator for corporate capital spending, the government will be using the data to predict the strength of business spending in a six to nine month period ahead, with such business investment accounting for roughly 15 percent of Japan's gross domestic product.
Analysts here are now eyeing the government and the central bank's reaction to the machinery order data and a slew of other macroeconomic figures, including Wednesday's disappointing GDP showing the economy shrank an annualized 7.1 percent in April-June from the previous quarter, topping a preliminary estimate, to determine if any further monetary easing measures will be taken.
Among major movers on Wednesday's market, oil and coal related issues comprised the day's best performing sector, with Showa Shell Sekiyu advancing 1.6 percent to 1,132 yen, while JX Holdings gained 1.8 percent to close the day at 527 yen.
Nonferrous metal stocks closed mixed, with Sumitomo Metal Mining relinquishing 3.8 percent to 1,664 yen, following the price of nickel took a dive on the exchange in London, but Hitachi Metals climbed 4.2 percent to 1,902 yen, following Nomura Securities Co. raising 's of its target price for the stock from 1, 910 yen to 2,390 yen.
E-commerce and IT giant Rakuten was a notable gainer Wednesday, jumping 4.9 percent to 1,316 yen, after it said it would offer 1 billion U.S. dollars in cash for American firm Ebates.
Kyushu Electric was also in the spotlight, jumping 4.5 percent to 1,103 yen, after Japan's nuclear regulator approved a safety report for two reactors at the Sendai plant in the country's south. Both reactors at the plant had been shut down, along with 48 others across the country after the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster in 2011, but are the closest to being brought back online, the nuclear watchdog said after the reactors passed its new stringent safety checks.
But Japan Display closed in negative territory Wednesday, retreating 1.8 percent to 587 yen, after Apple Inc. unveiled a smart watch along with two new iPhones with larger screens and new chips that allow for health monitoring and physical payments at stores.
Trading volume on Wednesday increased to 1.94 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Tuesday's volume of 1. 89 billion shares, with advancing issues beating declining ones 1, 090 to 581.