The Nikkei stock index closed 0.20 percent higher Tuesday as concerns eased about geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Iraq and the yen's comparative weakness buoyed exporters.
But investors were reluctant to chase the market higher ahead of impending GDP data, which analysts here believe will show a hefty contraction in the last quarter, owing to the April 1 tax hike.
The Nikkei 225 index gained 30.79 points to finish at 15,161.31, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares added 0. 41 percent, or 5.18 points, to close at 1,257.69.
Local traders said that buying got off to a good start following a solid lead from Wall Street overnight, which evidenced the fact that global investors' concerns about geopolitical tensions had eased off for the time being.
Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co. in Tokyo. said that, "geopolitical risk in Ukraine and Iraq isn't something to panic about right now, and shares have sold off too much.
Matsuno was referring to the market adjusting to the tensions and responding accordingly to the surrounding news, such as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's announcement Monday of an international humanitarian Red Cross mission to the city of Luhansk, comprising the U.S., the European Union and Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the agreement had been reached with Ukraine on providing aid.
President Barack Obama threw the U.S. full support behind Iraq' s president forming a new government, despite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki not wishing to step aside to be succeeded.
"On these geopolitical issues alone and more recently with the conflict between Israel and Gaza the market has been oversold due to investors overreacting and hitting the panic button, but what we are seeing now after a massive selloff last week and stocks bought back as bargains, is a more controlled response to each situation as it arises," said one Tokyo-based market player.
Brokers here also said that while in currency markets the U.S. dollar fetching 102.29 yen on Tuesday, compared to 102.21 yen logged in New York Monday, was a boon for export related issues who rely on a weaker yen to boost their overseas profits and competitiveness in overseas markets, an air of circumspection hang over the market Tuesday ahead of a slew of key economic indicators, which sent some investors to the sidelines to wait and see rather than test the market's upside.
Such indicators include the highly anticipated GDP data for Japan in the last quarter, following the April 1 tax hike. Many analysts suspect the data may come in below par and as such a broad range of issues will come under pressure from the morning bell tomorrow.
Takuya Takahashi, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities Co. said, "there will be a number of economic indicators in and outside Japan starting tomorrow, including the closely watched GDP. "
"Everyone knows it is going to be bad and the focus is to what extent," added Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc. "If it is surprisingly weak, stocks will meet selling. If the outcome is as bad as estimated, however, they could draw buying once the negative news runs out," Hiroki said.
Among exporters, Toyota Motor accelerated 0.8 percent to 5,990 yen, while Sony gained 0.62 percent to close at 1,774 yen. Electronics and semiconductor maker Tokyo Electron advanced 1.1 percent to finish at 6,574 yen.
NGK Insulators leapt 3.6 percent to 2,643 yen after Credit Suisse raised its share-price target on the firm's stock from 2, 440 yen to 2,820 yen, and opted to keep its "outperformed" rating.
Pacific Metals advanced 3.9 percent to 375 yen, making it the biggest advancer on Tuesday's Nikkei 225, following it reporting after trading hours that its Q1 profit had quadrupled.
Social networking site operator Mixi surged 20 percent to 6,110 yen, after the company raised its first-half net-income forecast to eight billion yen from 2.8 billion yen.
Mixi also announced that it will incorporate characters from chat messaging and game app Line into its Monster Strike games.
Pump maker Ebara, weighed on the market Tuesday, slumping 3.7 percent to 595 yen, to become the Nikkei's biggest decliner. Ebara announced a profit loss of 1.87 billion yen in Q1 due to a poor performance of its wind-power and hydroelectric businesses.
Trading volume on Tuesday fell to 1.61 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Monday's volume of 1.87 billion shares, with advancing issues outnumbering declining ones by 1,017 to 662.