Nikkei closes above 20,000 for first time in 15 years

April 22 23:38 2015

The jury may still be out on “Abenomics,” but Japanese investors are rendering at least an interim verdict on the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: thumbs up. The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended above 20,000 Wednesday for the first time in 15 years, closing 224.81 points, or 1.13%, higher than a day earlier. It was the highest close since April 2000.635652961593286866-AFP-539977873

The Tokyo Stock Exchange’s broader Topix index of all First Section issues finished 12.91 points, or 0.80%, higher at 1,621.79. Hiroichi Nishi, assistant general manager of equity research at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Kyodo News that the strong result supported the “firmly held belief among investors that the Japanese economy is steadily recovering and companies will perform strongly.”

Earlier Wednesday, Japan’s Finance Ministry announced the country’s first monthly trade surplus in nearly three years. Jiji Press reported Wednesday that investors also are anticipating robust earnings this month, when the reporting period for corporate financial statements for the fiscal year ending in March gets into full swing.

Long-struggling Japanese consumer electronics maker Sony Corp. on Wednesday raised its earnings estimates for the second time in three months, citing higher-than-expected sales, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Tobias Harris, an analyst with Teneo Intelligence in Washington, D.C., told USA TODAY that rising Japanese share prices are not surprising, given the decision in late 2014 by Japan’s trillion-dollar Government Pension Investment Fund to invest more heavily in Japan’s stock markets. Harris warned that it is still too early to declare victory for Abe’s economic policies, which are designed in part to spur inflation and encourage heavier spending by business and consumers.