Nikkei hits 52-month high; Japan Tobacco sinks

TOKYO Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:44am IST

Passersby walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Passersby walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yuya Shino

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average climbed to a 52-month high on Wednesday, boosted by Wall Street shares edging up to near-record highs, although analysts said gains could be limited as investors focus on who will become the next Bank of Japan governor.

The Nikkei .N225 advanced 0.7 percent to 11,452.02 after trading as much as 11,510.52, its highest level since October 2008.

Also helping to limit the Nikkei gains, Japan Tobacco Inc (2914.T) sank 3.7 percent as the top-weighted loser after sources told Reuters that the Japanese government's $10 billion stake in the world's third-largest tobacco company was expected to kick off within days after bankers met on Tuesday over deal details.

"Lawmakers in Japan have made it very clear that they are comfortable with the yen 90 to 100 (to the dollar). They are probably prefer closer to 100 than 90. They would like the equity market to go higher in the fiscal year end (in March)," a senior trader at a foreign bank said.

The benchmark Nikkei is up 10 percent since the start of this year, spurred by the yen's weakness, after rallying 22.9 percent in 2012. Most of the gains last year came in the final six weeks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe focused his election campaign on lobbying the BOJ to adopt bolder monetary policy.

Japanese equities carry a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of 13.8, a level not seen since March 2011, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream. That compared with a 10-year average of 16.4.

The trader said the long-only investors, such as pension funds, remained slow in jumping in to the Japanese market.

"I don't think U.S. long-only have really got into this market. They are still underweight. I think it's hedge funds and regional accounts that have a little bit more flexibility around their asset allocations, so we are seeing those guys."

Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Inc, said investors were unlikely to chase the Tokyo market too hard as they would be focused on whom the government will nominate as the next central bank governor next week.

The government has delayed nominating a governor by a week, fanning talk of friction between the prime minister and the finance minister over who should run the central bank and take aggressive action to revive the economy.

The broader Topix .TOPX index rose 0.9 percent to 971.92 after trading as high as 1.3 percent.

Social gaming company Gree Inc (3632.T) tumbled as much as 7.6 percent after mobile phone operator KDDI Corp (9433.T) said in a filing that it plans to sell 3.4 percent of Gree's outstanding shares.

But Orix Corp (8591.T) gained 2.6 percent after the financial services firm said it has agreed to buy Dutch asset manager Robeco from its owner Rabobank RABO.UL in its biggest- ever acquisition.

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