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Tokyo stocks close higher after Trump Congress speech

TOKYO: Tokyo shares rose Wednesday as investors breathed a sigh of relief that US President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress did not deliver any unwelcome surprises, but it offered little new on his economic growth plans.

Dealers were keen to see if Trump would outline a specific blueprint on what he has described as a “phenomenal” tax-cut and infrastructure spending, promises that stoked a global equities rally after his November election.

The tycoon on Wednesday pledged $1.0 trillion in public-private infrastructure spending and “massive” tax cuts for the middle class, but he did not supply more specifics or say how it would be paid for.

“President Trump’s address was high on rhetoric and light on detail, leaving the market underwhelmed,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at forex firm OANDA, said in a commentary.

The “highly anticipated speech was a highly scripted damp squib in the end. No news was good news,” he added.

Trump also held off criticism of Japan and other nations he has previously accused of taking advantage of the US through unfair trade practices.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 ended the day 1.44 percent, or 274.55 points, higher at 19,393.54, while the broader Topix index of all first-section issues gained 1.16 percent, or 17.77 points, to close at 1,553.09.

Trump’s speech was not the only factor driving markets higher, analysts said.

KNOW MORE:Not world, my job is to represent United States of America, Trump Congress speech

The dollar picked up against the yen — a plus for Japanese shares — as investors increasingly bet that the US central bank will hike interest rates as early as this month.

“Focus is shifting toward the Fed,” Ryuta Otsuka, a strategist at Toyo Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

“The yen was already weakening this morning on that, and in all honesty, today’s gains in Japanese shares aren’t entirely on the Trump speech.

“More than half is due to the yen’s move and increased expectations of a March rate hike.”

The dollar firmed to 113.40 yen from 112.75 yen in New York.

SoftBank rose 2.64 percent to 8,583 yen after it announced a fresh $1.7 billion investment in US satellite telecom firms OneWeb and Intelsat, which plan to merge.

The deal will give SoftBank, which in December announced it was injecting $1 billion into OneWeb, a nearly 40 percent voting stake in the combined company plus additional non-voting shares.

Sony was up 1.46 percent to end the day at 3,529 yen, while Toyota rose 1.58 percent to 6,466 yen and Honda gained 0.91 percent to finish at 3,521 yen.

Market heavyweight Fast Retailing, operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, rose 1.83 percent to 36,140 yen.