Originally created 03/27/04

Tokyo stocks higher, dollar down against yen



TOKYO -- Tokyo's benchmark stock index surged to a 21-month high Friday as investors, encouraged by strength on Wall Street, snapped up shares in technology companies and export-related sectors. The U.S. dollar was lower against the Japanese yen.

The Nikkei Stock Average of 225 issues rose 239.74 points, or 2.08 percent, to end at 11,770.65 - its highest close since June 3, 2002, when it ended at 11,901.39 points. On Thursday, the index gained 165.92 points, or 1.46 percent.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 105.69 yen by late afternoon Friday, down 0.27 yen from late Thursday and below the 106.17 yen it bought in New York. The currency traded between 105.64 yen and 106.24 yen in Tokyo.

Among strong gainers in Tokyo were technology blue chips Sony, NEC and Hitachi, as well as Matsushita Electric and Advantest.

Investors also picked up issues sensitive to domestic demand, including paper and chemical makers, on upbeat sentiment about Japan's economy. Hopes for a recovery have driven up economy-sensitive stocks in recent days.

In other Tokyo trading Friday, the broader index of all issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section closed up 16.32 points, or 1.40 percent, at 1176.32. The TOPIX rose 14.05 points, or 1.23 percent, on Thursday.

Volume on first section was estimated at 1.690 billion shares, down from 1.978 billion Thursday. Advancers beat decliners 811 to 639, while 79 issues ended unchanged.

In New York on Thursday, the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 3.0 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 1.7 percent.

In the currency market, the dollar dipped to a one-month low against the yen in Asia Friday, as surging Tokyo share prices and further evidence of strength in the Japanese economy prompted investors to snap up the yen.

The dollar fell as low as 105.64 yen during the day - its weakest since Feb. 18 - as economic data showed that spending by Japanese wage earners jumped 6.9 percent in February from the same time last year. It was the largest rise since October 1982.

Japan's finance minister reiterated, however, that the government's stance on curbing the yen's rise has not shifted.

"Our basic stance ... remains unchanged," Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters. "We are closely watching the market and underlying economic conditions."

In other currencies, the euro slipped to $1.2100 late Friday in Tokyo from $1.2124 late Thursday. Against the yen, the European currency was quoted at 127.85 yen, down from 128.57 yen.

The yield on Japan's benchmark 10-year government bond rose to 1.4000 percent from 1.3050 percent late Thursday. Its price fell 0.83 to 99.12 points.

On the Net:

Tokyo Stock Exchange: http://www.tse.or.jp