Japanese shares edge higher, concerns over PM Abe’s health weigh

Japanese shares inched up on Monday in line with gains in e-mini futures, but rising speculations around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s health weighed on sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei share average rose 0.33 per cent to 22.996.44 by the midday break, with 105 advancers on the index against 113 decliners.

The broader Topix gained 0.22 per cent to 1,607.64. About half of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange traded higher.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.28 per cent, which created a tailwind to the market.

Investors were wary after Japanese Prime Minister Abe entered a Tokyo hospital to receive a follow-up medical examination from last week.

Last week’s medical check-up lasted seven-and-a-half hours, stoking concerns about Abe’s ability to continue as leader due to health issues and fatigue from handling the Covid-19 crisis.

Abe, already Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassed a half-century-old record set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato for the longest consecutive tenure as premier on Monday, adding to speculation he may resign after reaching the milestone.

Investors also await Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s address at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium on Thursday for clues on the outlook for US monetary policy.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Nintendo Co Ltd up 4.28 per cent, followed by Mitsui & Co Ltd.

The largest percentage gainers in the index were Nissan Chemical Corp up 2.76 per cent, followed by Dai-ichi Life Holdings Inc rising 2.73 per cent and Daikin Industries Ltd up by 2.31 per cent.

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