* Panasonic soars 17 pct, Sharp adds 5.5 pct in heavy trade
* Volume highest since March 2011 for both Nikkei and Topix
* Sony jumps, still undervalued - analyst
* Morgan Stanley MUFG ups Topix target to 1200 by year-end
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, Feb 4 Japan's Nikkei share average hit a
fresh 33-month peak on Monday as exporters kept rising and hints
of recovery for troubled consumer electronics companies
Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp attracted retail investors.
Panasonic jumped 17 percent - rising by its one-day
limit of 100 yen - to a nine-month high of 392 yen after
reporting a return to profit in the last quarter and sticking
with its full-year earnings forecast as it moves from
loss-making TVs to household appliances.
Bailed-out Sharp jumped 5.5 percent after saying
Friday it had eked out quarterly operating profit, improving its
chances of convincing lenders and shareholders that it remains
Panasonic and Sharp were among the day's five most
"Buying in these shares stemmed from a combination of
leverage trading and a bit of short-covering by retail
investors," a fund manager at a U.S. asset management firm said.
"Unlike such exporters as autos, consumer electronics stocks
had been bought before their fundamentals were showing a
recovery. Investors jumped on the stocks after seeing that their
earnings are recovering, but I wonder if the rallies may last,"
Sony Corp, the most traded stock on the board,
soared 7.5 percent on optimism about the earnings report and
forecasts it will unveil on Thursday.
"There are high expectations for the new games console after
the Playstation 3, particularly because people think it can beat
Nintendo, which is doing pretty badly," said Yoshihiko Tabei,
chief analyst at Kazaka Securities.
"Ideally Sony's main business will return to profit so that
it doesn't need to sell off its assets any more - but it's
price-to-book ratio is still 0.7, so it's still very cheap,"
Tabei added, saying that the softer yen is also spurring gains
for the company.
The Nikkei, which rose for a fifth straight day,
gained 0.6 percent to a closing high of 11,260.35 after the
dollar strengthened on strong U.S. jobs and manufacturing data.
The Nikkei's volume hit 3.54 billion shares, the highest level
since March 2011.
The broader Topix gained 1.4 percent to 955.75 in
heavy trade, with 4.45 billion shares changing hands on the main
board, the highest since March 2011. Last week's average daily
trading volume was 3.42 billion shares.
Financials, which lifted the Topix on Monday, also remained
in focus, with megabanks Mizuho Financial Group Inc and
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc advancing 4.9
percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
"We think major banks' share price performance will be
strong for the time being owing to the upturn in the political
and economic environment in the wake of the change of government
and improved sentiment toward bank stocks among Japanese and
nonresident investors," Nomura Securities wrote in a report.
It added that Japanese bank shares still look undervalued in
spite of being robust since December. Nomura retains its
"bullish" stance on the banking sector, with Mitsubishi UFJ
Financial Group and Mizuho its top picks.
Morgan Stanley MUFG Research raised Topix's target to 1200
from 910 at the end of 2013, while saying it expects the
dollar/yen to reach 100 by the fourth quarter of this year.
"We believe the equity markets have further to travel within
our 'expectations phase' in discounting the impact of Abenomics
in driving a sustained improvement in Japan's growth and
corporate ROE," the brokerage wrote in a report.
MORE WEAK YEN, UPSIDE IN STOCKS EXPECTED
The Japanese currency, already on a rapid downward trend due
to an aggressive campaign of fiscal and monetary expansion from
new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, traded at 92.65 yen
, just an inch away from a 2-1/2 year high of 92.97 on
Analysts said that the dollar is expected to further
strengthen against the yen due to a recovery in the U.S.
economy, which is likely to lift the Japanese market in coming
"I expect that foreign investors will increasingly become
aware of the risk of not owning Japanese stocks," said Michiro
Naito, executive director of equity derivatives strategy at
JPMorgan, adding that he expects that the Nikkei to hit around
14,000 in late March if the yen trades at 100 yen to the dollar.
U.S. employment grew modestly in January, with 157,000 jobs
added. That was slightly below expectations, but Labor
Department revisions showed 127,000 more jobs were created in
November and December than previously reported.
"If the U.S. economy recovers and the Fed cuts back on
buying Treasuries, there is certain to be a sharp increase in
interest rates from the current level that is so low it can be
called a bubble. Higher interest rates would also make the
dollar stronger," wrote Ryoji Musha, president of Musha Research
Co, in a report.