TOKYO -- Tokyo's benchmark stock index rebounded Thursday to hit a 32-month high for the second time this week on improved economic sentiment. The U.S. dollar rose against the yen.
The Nikkei Stock Average of 225 issues gained 72.97 points, or 0.61 percent, to end at 12,092.59. That was the second time this week the blue-chip index has closed above 12,000 and its best finish since ending at 12,163.67 on Aug. 8, 2001. The rally erased a drop of 60.08 points, or 0.5 percent, in trading Wednesday.
The dollar was trading at 105.84 yen by late afternoon Thursday, up 0.26 yen and also above the 105.31 yen it bought in New York. The U.S. currency fluctuated between 105.22 yen and 105.93 yen during Tokyo trading.
On the stock market, retailers, steelmakers and other sectors that rely heavily on domestic earnings led the rally. Gainers included Aeon, Ito-Yokado Co., Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Industry.
Investors have been bullish on domestic sectors in recent sessions amid indications that Japan's economy may be picking up speed after a decade-long slowdown.
That optimism has been tempered, however, by concern that the dollar may be poised to continue an extended retreat against the dollar - a prospect that would squeeze earnings in Japan's export sector.
Though the dollar inched upward Thursday as Japanese investors added overseas assets to their portfolios at the start of the new Japanese fiscal year this month, the U.S. currency's short-term outlook remains grim because of the recent escalation of violence in Iraq, said Tohru Sasaki, chief foreign exchange strategist at JPMorgan Chase Bank in Tokyo.
"The Iraq situation has gotten stuck more deeply in the mud," Sasaki said. "That strengthens concern the U.S. budget deficits will keep expanding, and that's surely a bearish factor for the dollar."
The broader index of all issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section rose 5.08 points, or 0.42 percent, to end at 1,209.89. The index lost 4.63 points, or 0.38 percent, on Wednesday.
In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.2173 late Thursday in Tokyo from $1.2087 Wednesday. Against the yen, the European currency rose to 128.83 yen from 127.62 yen.
The yield on Japan's benchmark 10-year government bond was unchanged from Wednesday at 1.4900 percent and was priced at 100.08 points.
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