Nikkei edges up to 17-month high, markets cautious on global tensions

* Comey dismissal, North Korea unnerve investors

* Minebea jumps on strong forecast

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, May 10 Japanese stocks edged up to hover
at 17-month highs as a weak yen trend supported sentiment, but
gains were by limited by fears arising from U.S. President
Donald Trump’s sacking of his FBI director and North Korea’s
nuclear programme.

The Nikkei share average rose 0.5 percent to
19,938.53 in mid-morning trade, the highest since December 2015,
after it dipped 0.3 percent on the previous day.

The dollar is down 0.2 percent against the yen to 113.77 yen
, below its overnight high of 114.325, but traders said
that investors are comfortable with that level as the dollar is
well above its recent lows.

Analysts said that the Nikkei was seen as well placed to
eventually top the 20,000 threshold thanks to the weak yen which
would push up Japanese exporters’ earnings.

But at the same time, with Japanese stocks gaining sharply
in a short period of time, investors have become cautious about
chasing the market higher, they said.

Also making investors nervous was news that U.S. President
Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Comey had been leading his agency’s investigation into
alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign
and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign. Democrats
immediately accused Trump of acting out of political motives.

Rekindled fears that North Korea could be gearing up for
another weapons test also sent investors to the sidelines.

“This news could trigger yen buying, but for now, as the
dollar-yen is stable, there is a limited direct impact on the
Japanese market,” said Seiki Orimi, a senior investment
strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

North Korea’s ambassador to Britain, Choe Il, set a defiant
tone in an interview with Sky News, saying his country would
continue with its nuclear and missile programmes and conduct its
sixth nuclear test “at the place and time as decided by our
supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.”

Companies with strong earnings and forecasts gained.
Minebea Mitsumi Inc jumped 11 percent after saying it
expected a 14 percent rise in its operating profit for the year
through March 2018.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp surged 7 percent after
forecasting a near 14-fold rise in operating profit for this
fiscal year.

Toyota Motor Corp and SoftBank Group are
expected to release results after the market close.

The broader Topix rose 0.3 percent to 1,586.02 and
the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 0.2 percent to
14,159.38.

Source: Reuters

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