Japanese Market Significantly Higher

The Japanese stock market is significantly higher on Friday, extending the gains in the previous two sessions, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 moving above the 27,600 level, following the mostly positive cues from global markets overnight, lifted by exporters and financial stocks as traders continue to digest the US Fed's interest rate announcement.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 199.61 points or 0.73 percent to 27,601.66, after touching a high of 27,612.57 earlier. Japanese stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining more than 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is also adding more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is flat, while Toyota is edging up 0.5 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is edging up 0.4 percent and Tokyo Electron is gaining almost 1 percent, while Screen Holdings is edging down 0.3 percent.

In the banking sector, Mizuho Financial is gaining more than 2 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are adding almost 1 percent each.

Among major exporters, Panasonic is losing more than 3 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is gaining more than 2 percent, Sony is surging almost 5 percent and Canon is adding more than 1 percent.

In other news, shares in Z Holdings are soaring more than 12 percent after it announced the merger with its two wholly-owned subsidiaries Yahoo Japan and LINE in an effort to revamp operations.

Among the other major gainers, NTN is skyrocketing 13 percent and, while Taiyo Yuden, Murata Manufacturing and Hoya are gaining almost 4 percent each. NSK is gaining more than 3 percent, while Takeda Pharmaceutical, Recruit Holdings, TDK, Nomura Holdings and Sumitomo Electric Industries are adding almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, Konami Group is losing almost 5 percent and Mitsubishi Motors is declining almost 4 percent.

In economic news, the services sector in Japan continued to expand in January, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed on Friday with a services PMI score of 52.3. That's up from 51.1 in December and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also said that the composite index improved to 50.7 in January from 49.7 in December.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 128 yen-range on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday, extending the rally seen late in the previous session. Tech stocks helped lead the advance, resulting in a substantial increase by the Nasdaq.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq soared 384.50 points or 3.3 percent to a nearly five-month closing high of 12,200.82 and the S&P 500 jumped 60.55 points or 1.5 percent to 4,179.76, while the narrower Dow spent most of the day in negative territory, with the blue chip index edging down 39.02 points or 0.1 percent to 34,053.94.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index surged by 2.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.3 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower Thursday, weighed down by data showing an increase in U.S. crude inventories last week. The dollar's recovery and uncertainty about the outlook for energy demand due to concerns about a global recession also hurt. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for March fell $0.53 or 0.7 percent at $75.88 a barrel.

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