Japan's Nikkei closes at 15-year high, Europe stocks down
By YURI KAGEYAMA (AP)
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's stock benchmark closed above the 20,000-level for the first time in 15 years Wednesday, encouraged by the country's first monthly trade surplus since 2012. European stocks fell, however, and Wall Street was expected to open lower.
KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 was down 0.6 percent to 5,161.50 and Germany's DAX dropped 1.1 percent to 11,812.14. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent to 7,020.34. U.S. shares were set to fall, with Dow futures down 0.3 percent and S&P 500 futures off 0.2 percent.
CORPORATE EUROPE: Earnings results were mixed in Europe, with British retailer Tesco reporting a big 5.7 billion pound ($8.5 billion) loss, though beer maker Heineken and truck maker Volvo posted upbeat figures. Investors were also digesting the European Union's announcement that it is investigating Russia's Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer, for abusing its dominant market position in Eastern Europe. The move could sour already-weak relations between Europe with Russia, which have imposed tit-for-tat sanctions.
JAPAN TRADE: Earlier, Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in nearly three years in March, thanks to falling import costs from cheaper oil prices, along with a modest recovery in exports. It is unclear how long surpluses will continue as Japan's oil and gas import bill could rise again due to the weak yen. But a U.S. recovery has helped boost Japan's exports, and the government has been aggressively encouraging tourism.
THE QUOTE: "Japanese exports for March, out this morning, came in showing an increase of 8.5 percent," said Nicholas Teo, market analyst with CMC Markets in Singapore. "With the tourist season heading into full swing, the advantage of a lower yen will also have a huge impact on these numbers in the months ahead."
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.1 percent to finish at 20,133.90, the first time since April 14, 2000 that the index closed above 20,000 points. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 2,143.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent to 27,933.85 and China's Shanghai Composite jumped 2.4 percent to 4,398.49. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,837.50.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 31 cents to $56.30 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The May contract fell $1.12 to close at $55.26 in New York on its last day of trading Tuesday.
CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0769 from $1.0736 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 119.48 yen from 119.70 yen.