Japanese shares rise as Fed rescue programme lifts bank stocks

SYDNEY, April 10 (Reuters) – Japanese shares settled higher on Friday, with bank stocks leading the gains on a $2.3 trillion programme by the U.S. Federal Reserve to support local governments and businesses, but trading was lacklustre due to the Easter holidays overseas.

The benchmark Nikkei average reversed early losses to close up 0.8% at 19,498.50, its best finish since March 25, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2%, the S&P 500 gained 1.5% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.8% on Thursday.

For the week, the Nikkei was up 9.4%, its second biggest gain since December 2009.

The broader Topix added 0.9% to 1,430.04, with all but six of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the exchange finishing in positive territory.

The banking sector was the top performer, up 3.6%, in line with its U.S. peers after the Fed pledged a “whatever-it-takes” approach to keep credit flowing to businesses and households.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) Inc, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) Inc and Mizuho Financial Group Inc climbed between 3.6% and 4.4%.

Nikkei heavyweight Fast Retailing Co Ltd rose 2.6%, after the owner of casual clothing chain Uniqlo forecast a 44% fall in full-year profit as the coronavirus outbreak hit sales in China.

Analysts said the market liked the fact that the fashion retailer provided a guidance, unlike many of its peers.

Among losers, Ryohin Keikaku Co Ltd shed 1.6% after the operator of Muji-brand retail stores said net profit for the business year ended in February fell 31%.

Top oil and gas company Inpex Corp dropped 3.1% as oil prices tumbled on doubts that a deal between OPEC and allies to make a record oil supply cut would be enough to offset the collapse in global fuel demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall trading activity was subdued, with the volume of shares traded on the main board valued at 2.20 trillion yen ($20.2 billion), the lowest since Feb. 21.

Traders said they suspected the Bank of Japan bought exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the afternoon as part of its stimulus programme and buoyed the market.

$1 = 108.8139 yen
Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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