Japan’s Nikkei Rises on US Rate Cut Prospects, Shippers Fall (Update 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo Stock Exchange

TOKYO, Dec 25 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei share average ended higher on Monday, underpinned by prospects for U.S. rate cuts that also lifted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq late last week, although shipping shares fell on expectations a resumption in Red Sea shipping would weigh on freight rates.

The Nikkei rose 0.26% to close at 33,254.03, while the broader Topix inched up 0.04% to 2,337.40.

“The gains were limited as investors hesitated to make active bets with the close of overseas markets on the Christmas holiday,” said Takehiko Masuzawa, trading head at Phillip Securities Japan.

U.S. stocks gyrated to a mixed close on Friday, with the Nasdaq joining the S&P 500 in positive territory, while the Dow finished nominally lower as the markets digested cooler-than-expected inflation data, which supported the possibility of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts in the new year.

“While the markets were mixed, the only obvious trend was the decline in shipping firms,” Masuzasa said.

He said their shares were driven lower by news on Sunday that Denmark’s Maersk is preparing to resume shipping operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Shares of Japanese shippers surged 17% last week on expectations of rising freight rates, as global shipping companies were sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

The shipping shares index fell 6.51% on Monday and was the worst-performing sector among the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 33 industry sub-indexes.

Kawasaki Kisen fell 8.6% to become the worst performer on the Nikkei. Nippon Yusen and Mitsui OSK Lines fell 6.54% and 5.62%, respectively.

Fast Retailing rose 0.62%, giving the biggest boost to the Nikkei among individual shares. Chipmaking equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron rose 0.48%.

Chip-testing equipment maker Advantest fell 1.49% and was the biggest drag on the Nikkei.

Shiseido lost 3.22% after the cosmetics maker announced an acquisition of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.

Mitsubishi Chemical Group lost 3.64% after the maker of semiconductor materials named a new president.