By Jake Maxwell Watts
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average extended its six-year high, pushing comfortably above the psychologically important 16,000 mark Thursday as a weaker yen attracted foreign investors, and as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tackled some of the remaining doubt over his stimulus measures.
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Meanwhile, China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +2.28% dropped 1.1% to 2,082.53, ending a three-day recovery as investors reacted negatively to a lack of additional cash injections from the central bank, used last week to calm a spike in interbank lending rates that has eroded investor confidence.
The seven-day repurchase agreement rate, a benchmark measurement of the amount banks charge each other to borrow, opened at 5.32% Thursday, down slightly from 5.58% a day earlier but still above normal levels.
Over in Japan, markets responded well following two upbeat reports on the state of the Japanese economy from the government and Bank of Japan earlier in the week, Abe said Wednesday in an interview with the Nikkei newspaper that he would announce a new reform agenda in June which would include measures to bring more women into work.
The Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.69% rose as much as 1.1% early Thursday before falling back to trade up 0.7% from its previous close, at the 16,124 mark. Among the better performing large-cap stocks were Isuzu Motors Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202637468/delayed JP:7202 +0.31% /zigman2/quotes/204928389/delayed ISUZF +0.49% , trading up 6.1%, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/202771076/delayed JP:9501 +0.69% /zigman2/quotes/204529331/delayed TKECF +0.05% , which gained 2.2%.
Yet minutes of the Bank of Japan’s Nov. 20-21 board meeting released Wednesday showed that not all members were convinced that the country’s growth was on a long-term upward trend. One member said that the recent deceleration in real gross domestic product growth could signal a downward shift in the economy’s trend.
The Japanese yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1531% weakened 0.3% against the U.S. dollar, with the dollar rising to ¥104.67 from ¥104.36 Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex inched higher, adding 0.2% to 8,481.89, its highest level since early August 2011. The market has been through a rocky year, with heavy falls during the summer months, followed by swift recoveries. Year-to-date the Taiex is trading up 10.2%, behind Japan, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand as Asia’s fifth best performer.
Struggle for influence in Asia
Japan is taking advantage of a backlash against China's growing assertiveness to woo Southeast Asian nations.
Markets in Korea were higher for the seventh straight session, after a break for Christmas. The Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.06% was up 0.1%, near its highest levels in over three weeks. Index heavyweights Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.49% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% lost 0.1%, while steel producer Posco /zigman2/quotes/201759282/delayed KR:005490 -0.46% /zigman2/quotes/209201002/composite PKX -0.65% and auto manufacturer Kia Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 -0.48% /zigman2/quotes/205439169/delayed KIMTF +8.21% gained 1.1% and lost 0.2%, respectively.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 -0.05% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.67% rose 3.3% despite Saudi Arabia announcing Wednesday that it was recalling more than 400,000 vehicles for alleged problems with acceleration.
In regional markets, Singapore’s FTSE Straits Times Index /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI -0.22% gained 0.3% to 3,135.46, rising for a fifth session but remained down 1.3% month-to-date after getting caught up in a recent regionwide selloff from emerging markets in favor of developed economies.
Financial markets in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Indonesia were closed for national holidays.