Most Japanese stocks rose, driving the Topix index to its highest close in almost eight months, after brokerages boosted investment ratings or share-price forecasts on makers of steel and tires.
Steelmakers gained the most among the 33 industry groups in the Topix after Credit Suisse raised its industry rating to “overweight” from “market weight.”
Nippon Steel jumped 3.8 percent to 303 yen, the biggest single contributor to the Topix. Kobe Steel Ltd. advanced 1.9 percent to 216 yen and JFE Holdings Inc., Japan’s No. 2 steelmaker by sales, gained 2.5 percent to 2,907 yen.
Credit Suisse also boosted its ratings on Nippon Steel and JFE to “outperform” from “neutral,” and on Kobe Steel to “neutral” from “underperform.”
Bridgestone Corp., the world’s largest tiremaker, gained 1.8 percent after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its target price.
Canon Inc., the world’s largest camera maker, sank 1.4 percent after the euro weakened against the yen to its lowest level since September, damping the outlook for export earnings.
Mitsubishi Corp., Japan’s biggest commodities trader, rallied 1.4 percent to 2,382 yen. Mitsui & Co., a trading house that counts commodities as its largest source of profit, advanced 0.9 percent to 1,430 yen.
Resona Holdings Inc., Japan’s fourth-largest bank, plunged 7.3 percent to 485 yen, the steepest decline in the Nikkei 225. The shares fell for a second day after the company said Jan. 7 that it aims to raise as much as 575 billion yen ($6.9 billion) in a public share sale this month.
European stocks surged to a 28-month high as Japan pledged to buy euro-area bonds, joining China in helping to alleviate the region’s debt crisis.
Portugal, Spain and Italy are scheduled to sell debt this week following a slump in euro-area government bonds last week.
Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said today it’s “appropriate” for his nation to buy bonds issued by Europe’s financial-aid funds later this month. Japan will use its foreign-exchange reserves to buy more than a fifth of the bonds that the European Financial Stability Facility will issue later in January, Noda said.
China has also voiced support for Europe, with Vice Premier Li Keqiang last week expressing confidence in Spain’s financial markets and pledging to buy more of that country’s debt.
HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank, and Barclays Plc rallied more than 2 percent after analysts recommended the shares.
Barclays increased 5.5 percent to 292 pence as BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research raised its price estimate for Britain’s third-biggest bank by 35 percent to 500 pence and reiterated its “buy” recommendation.
Mining companies advanced as copper climbed in London and JPMorgan Chase & Co. upgraded BHP Billiton Ltd.
Siemens AG rose 3 percent after the engineering company said it’s confident of reaching its full-year targets.
Continental AG rallied 4 percent to 60.83 euros. Europe’s second-biggest tiremaker beat sales and earnings goals for 2010 as unusually snowy weather in Europe propelled fourth-quarter winter-tire sales.
ARM Holdings Plc jumped 7 percent to 497.5 pence after CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer recommended the designer of chips for Apple Inc.’s iPhone as one of seven technology takeover targets. Morgan Stanley yesterday named ARM as one of its top picks for chipmakers in 2011.
Alstom SA increased 6.3 percent to 37.20 euros after Morgan Stanley upgraded the maker of trains and turbines to “overweight” from “equal weight” and raised its price estimate for the shares by 49 percent to 52 euros.
U.S. stocks closed higher Tuesday as investors' attention turned toward corporate earnings. Japan's pledge to buy eurozone bonds helped ease European debt jitters and give underlying support to market sentiment.
Dow component Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) kicked off the reporting period late Thursday with better-than expected results. Financial Network market strategist Brian Gendreau said he wouldn't be shocked to see quarterly earnings continue to surprise on the upside, which would push stocks upward.
Sears Holdings (SHLD, Fortune 500) and Apollo Group (APOL) were the big gainers on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. Sears' fourth-quarter and full-year outlook topped analysts' forecasts, while Apollo's quarterly results beat expectations.
Companies: Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500) stock jumped 6.3% after the retailer's fourth-quarter outlook topped forecasts. Sears said it expects to earn between $3.39 and $4.12 per share for the quarter ending Jan. 29. Analysts have been looking for earnings of $3.09 per share. For the year, Sears expects to earn between $130 million and $210 million, or between $1.16 and $1.88 per share.
Apollo Group's (APOL) stock rose 13.4% after the for-profit educator posted fiscal first-quarter earnings that trounced Wall Street expectations despite a 42% drop in new student enrollment during the quarter.
Shares of Tiffany & Co. (TIF) declined 0.6% after the jeweler and luxury goods retailer raised its outlook and posted an 11% rise in sales over the two-month holiday period.
Shares of Talbots (TLB) sank 17.4% Tuesday after the women's retailer posted a 6% drop in same-store sales so far this quarter and lowered its outlook due to weak customer demand.
Lennar (LEN), one of the nation's largest homebuilders, posted quarterly earnings per share of 17 cents before the opening bell. Analysts had forecast 3 cents. Its stock rose nearly 7%.
Shares of Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) slipped 1%, despite its positive earnings news the night before, amid worries about the aluminum producer's rising raw material supply costs.
Economy: Wholesale inventories fell 0.2% in November, the Commerce Department said. Economists were expecting inventories to have risen 1% during the month, after jumping 1.7% in October.
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