Japan shares end firmer as ruling party elects new leader

TOKYO, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Japanese shares ended higher on Monday after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga won a landslide victory in a ruling party leadership election, paving the way for him to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The benchmark Nikkei share average closed 0.74% higher at 23,579.48, while the broader Topix gained 0.93% to 1,651.91, hitting the highest level since Feb. 21.

“The market is strong today. There is an anticipation of higher prices,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities, adding that investors’ buying appetite helped offset selling pressure.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga won the party leadership race after financial markets closed on Monday. Suga is set to become prime minister on Wednesday, succeeding Abe, the nation’s longest-serving leader.

Suga, 71, who served in the powerful post of chief cabinet secretary during Abe’s nearly eight-year tenure, has said he will pursue his predecessor’s “Abenomics” recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reform.

Leading the gains, SoftBank Group jumped 8.96% to mark its biggest daily gain since March 25, after the company said it agreed to sell chip designer Arm to Nvidia Corp for as much as $40 billion in a deal set to reshape the semiconductor landscape.

Executives of the tech conglomerate have also held early-stage talks about taking the company private as it seeks a new strategy after disposing of several large assets, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Also supporting market sentiment were gains in U.S. stock futures during the Asian trade, in addition to COVID-19 vaccine hopes after AstraZeneca resumed its trials.

Paper and pulp led the sectoral gainers on the main bourse, up 2.38%, with Pack Corp climbing 3.66% and Nippon Paper Industries rising 1.64%.

Telecommunication companies were hit after Suga said on Friday he wanted to cut cell phone charges by around 40%.

SoftBank Corp dropped 5.01%, while NTT Docomo and KDDI Corp dropped 2.73% and 3.05%, respectively. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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