TOKYO — Japan’s Nikkei share average eked out gains to end higher on Monday, as sentiment improved after data showed China’s manufacturing activity in February expanded at the fastest pace in more than a decade.
The Nikkei index closed up 0.26% at 27,516.53, after falling as much as 0.5% earlier in the day tracking an overnight slump on Wall Street.
The broader Topix edged up 0.23% to 1,997.81.
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.71, the S&P 500 lost 0.30% and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.1%.
Wall Street closed out February in a subdued fashion with each of the three major indexes ending with monthly losses, as investors continue to assess whether U.S. interest rates will remain high for an extended period.
China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index shot up to 52.6 last month and far exceeded an analyst forecast of 50.5.
Shares of Ajinomoto jumped 9.31% after the processed food maker raised its annual profit forecast and announced progressive dividend policy, providing support to the benchmark index.
“Improvement in shareholder returns by companies with robust earnings reflects in their stock prices immediately,” said Shoichi Arisawa, general manager of the investment research department at IwaiCosmo Securities.
The food and drink maker index rose 0.7%, with probiotic yogurt maker Yakult Honsha rising 0.54%.
Oil explorers rose 2.81% and were the top gainer among the 33 industry sub-indexes on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Overall, the market missed moving catalysts, and at such a time, investors tend to sell outperforming stocks to book profits, Arisawa said.
Shipping firms slipped 1.24%, having gained more than 9% so far this year, with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Nippon Yusen losing 1.54% and 1.67%, respectively.
The banking sector, which has risen 9% so far this year, slipped 0.294%.
Uniqlo brand owner Fast Retailing lost 1.12%, weighing the most on the Nikkei. Drugmakers Daiichi Sankyo and Chugai Pharmaceutical fell 1.47% and 2.09%, respectively. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Eileen Soreng)