The Nikkei stock index gained 0.48 percent Monday as the U.S. dollar's rise to the 104 yen zone encouraged investors to chase assets higher, following the U.S. Federal Reserve saying that employment has improved and the overall economy is recovering.
The Nikkei 225 index gained 74.06 points to close at 15,613.25, while the broader Topix index of all first-section issues added 0. 41 percent, or 5.24 points, to finish at 1,291.31.
Market players had been speculating earlier this week that the U.S. central bank might begin raising its interest rates at an earlier rate, but comments by U.S. central bankers led by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen over the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, indicated that the world's largest economy would have to undergo more improvements before rates can be hiked.
Yellen said that while the labor market in the U.S. has shown signs of improving, elements of the workforce are still being underused and the labor market is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. In light of the labor market situation, Yellen said that the bank couldn't just go straight ahead and raise interest rates. Local traders here said the Fed's stance met with market expectations and prolonged Yellen's somewhat dovish stance. However, the news was general well-received by global markets as the Fed is ardently considering "when" rather than "if" rates should be raised and this helped send the U.S. dollar higher versus the yen. The Fed has been reigning in its 10 billion U.S. dollar per month quantitative easing program incrementally since late last year.
"Yellen's comments were very careful and neutral in nature, and as such did not necessarily tip the Fed's hand either way with regard to a prevailing stance on policy. The underlying trend on yen weakening remains unbroken, despite little movement in long- term U.S. interest rates after Yellen's speech," said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities.
The U.S. dollar was changing hands at 104.18 yen, marking its highest level since January, from 103.87 yen logged in New York Friday. A weaker yen is cheered by exporters here, as their competitiveness in overseas markets is improved as are their profit outlooks and yields when the funds are repatriated.
Among automakers, Toyota accelerated 0.7 percent to 5,985 yen, while Nissan shed 0.14 percent to finish at 1,013 yen.
Consumer electronics giant Sony added 0.9 percent to 1,972 yen, after saying its users'information was safe following a recent cyber attack on its online music and gaming sites.
JVC Kenwood Corp. surged 27 percent to 310 yen, after local media said the firm plans to develop car navigation systems for Swiss firm Garmin Ltd., known for its range of precision global positioning systems.
Hitachi Ltd. rose 1.7 percent to 788 yen, while Murata Manufacturing gained 0.8 percent to 10,075 yen, after the company said it would acquire U.S. firm Peregrine Semiconductor Corp. to boost its smartphone parts business.
Fujifilm was also in the spotlight Monday, jumping 4 percent to 3,205 yen, after Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan could offer an unapproved drug to help treat the deadly Ebola virus, ahead of the World Health Organization's request for the drug.
But Chugai Pharmaceutical relinquished 9.2 percent to 3,325 yen, following news that Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche Holding AG, which has a 60 percent stake in Chugai, opted not to bid for the Chugai's remaining 40 percent. Trading volume on Monday fell to 1.56 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, down from Friday's volume of 1.76 billion shares, with advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by 1,162 to 499.