Nikkei leads gains across the board in Asia – CNBC

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Earlier, Japan’s Ministry of Finance released data that showed the country’s January exports fell 12.9 percent at an annual rate on-year, worse than the market expectation of a 11.3 percent drop. Imports were down 18 percent on-year, with trade balance falling to a deficit.. Exports to China, one of Japan’s biggest trading partners, slipped 17.5 percent in January.

Despite the disappointing trade numbers, most Japanese stocks, including the trading houses,that supply everything from energy to metals to grains and textiles in resource-scarce Japan, traded up. The big five trading houses, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo, Itochu, and Marubeni traded between 2.20 and 5.30 percent higher.

The yen strengthened against the dollar, with the dollar-yen pair trading down 0.19 percent at 113.88, compared to yesterday’s close of 114.08. While a stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency, major exporters such as Toyota, Honda, and Sony traded up between 1.20 and 3.79 percent.

Japanese banks were up between 0.45 and 1.30 percent; Mitsubishi UFJ gained 1.25 percent.

The Japanese overnight call rate, which is the benchmark lending rate between banks, fell to negative levels on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Japan’s negative interest rate policy kicked in as concerns over the long-term profitability of the banks lingered.

Nikkei leads gains across the board in Asia – CNBC}