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Tokyo: Stocks close up 0.33%


[TOKYO] Tokyo stocks closed up 0.33 per cent on bargain-hunting Friday, while investors focus on political developments in Japan ahead of an election next month.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange reversed earl losses to end up 56.65 points at 17,357.51, while the Topix index of all first-section shares edged 0.18 per cent, or 2.54 points, higher to 1,400.18.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament Friday as he prepares for an election he called for next month after Japan's economy sank into recession in July-September and he decided to delay a sales tax hike.

"Players are seeing the latest political development as a positive factor," said Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities.

"(They) expect Abe will win and push for his policies against deflation, which is good for Japanese stocks. But if he fails to win considerable support from voters, it will be a different story." The Nikkei hit a seven-year high last week after the Bank of Japan expanded its monetary easing programme on October 31, sending the yen into a freefall.

A weak yen is generally positive for Japanese exporters, but the unit won back some ground on Friday.

In afternoon trade, the dollar bought 117.87 yen, down from 118.22 yen in New York, where it nearly broke 119 yen for the first time since August 2007.

Japanese finance minister Taro Aso said Friday that the yen's steep slide over the past week had been "too fast".

In share trading, Toyota fell 0.12 per cent to 7,089.0 yen, Canon rose 0.96 per cent to 3,711.5 yen and air bag maker Takata jumped 9.15 per cent to 1,252.0 yen.

On Thursday, a senior Takata executive defended the auto parts firm before a US Senate panel investigating faulty airbags tied to several deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, said his company took responsibility for three US deaths related to what he labelled "anomalies" in its airbags.

But he did not expand that acceptance of responsibility to a broader series of airbags installed for at least a decade in millions of cars from 10 major manufacturers.

The lift in Takata, which has plummeted in recent months, were tied to the relatively few surprises from the hearing and investors covering their short positions on the beleaguered stock, observers said.

"The outcome from the US could still be enormous," said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities, referring to lawsuits and probes over the potentially deadly defect.

Skymark Airlines surged 25.64 per cent to 245.0 yen after the leading Nikkei business daily said it was negotiating a business partnership with Japan Airlines.