World Economy

Japan Shares Hit New 15-Year High

Japan Shares Hit New 15-Year HighJapan Shares Hit New 15-Year High

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index edged up to a new 15-year high on Friday as the yen weakened against the dollar, with investors shrugging off some disappointing economic figures.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 closed slightly higher, up 0.06% at 8,797.94 points. The dollar was buying 119.36 yen on Friday, after rising overnight from a Thursday low of 118.68 yen in the US, Reuters said.

A weaker yen helps Japan’s big exporting companies. It makes their products more affordable overseas and gives a boost to their earnings.

However, latest figures from Japan’s Ministry of Economy showed that Japanese households had cut spending by more than expected in January and that retail sales had fallen for the first time in seven months.

Separate data also showed that Japan’s core inflation had slowed to 0.2% in January compared with a year earlier. Japan has suffered nearly two decades of deflation and the Bank of Japan’s target for inflation is 2%.

Factory output was one bright spot for investors, with official numbers showing it had jumped 4% in January from a month earlier, exceeding analysts’ expectation.

However, not all analysts were upbeat about the factory data.

“While industrial production surged in January, firms are predicting a renewed decline in coming months as consumer spending remains sluggish,” Japan-based economist Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said.

  Elsewhere in Asia

Markets were mixed across the rest of Asia on Friday as energy-related shares were affected by lower oil prices.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed down 0.3% at 24,823.29, while the Shanghai Composite index ended the day up 0.4% at 3,310.30.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 also moved into positive territory to close up 0.34% at 5,928.80. Sydney-listed shares in Woolworths, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, were down as much as 8% after the firm posted disappointing results for the six months to December.

The supermarket giant announced on Thursday a 3.1% fall in profits to 1.3b Australian dollars ($1.01b).

Melbourne-based Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the maker of Penfolds and one of the world’s biggest listed wine companies, had some good news though, posting a net profit of A$42.6m ($33.21m) for the six months to December.

The results mark a turnaround from the A$100.9m loss it reported for the full 2014 financial year.

In Korea, after a seven day rally, the Kospi share index was down 0.37% at 1,985.80.