Tokyo Market: Internet boosts investors' confidence

JAPANESE stocks may gain this week if US computer and internet stocks continue to rally, boosting prospects for Japanese technology shares that trade in tandem, such as Fujitsu and Softbank.

Investors will be listening for hints about additional government spending aimed at pulling Japan from its worst recession in five decades. "We have the force of momentum," said Takashi Kuribayashi, manager at Mito Securities. "And with America so strong, the money flows into Japan as well - no one is buying on earnings or economic fundamentals."

The benchmark Nikkei gained for a third week in four, closing at 16,923.25. The benchmark may trade between 16,500 and 17,500 this week, Mr Kuribayashi said.

Overseas investors are shifting money into Japanese stocks as they seek markets with room to grow. "Apparently US pension funds are starting to look at the Nikkei," said Chua Soon Hock, strategist at Sanwa Bank. "While, as usual, the Japanese funds are still very defensive, my money is with the foreigners."

Investors will also tune to currency changes after this week's Group of Seven finance ministers meeting, which may give approval for the dollar to trade in the Y120 range, and that level or a weaker yen could lift exporters and technology shares. Moreover, Japan could see more government spending.

"I think Japan could be strong next week ... market sentiment is positive," said Alex Muromcew, manager at Nicholas Applegate Capital Management. "Now we have this rumour that we're going to have yet another fiscal stimulus package from Obuchi. There seems to be good news on the horizon."

The US market's response to results last week from internet companies is likely to be mirrored in Japan. "The internet companies seem to be unable to do any wrong," said Mr Muromcew. "So you probably want to buy Softbank and Yahoo!."

Yet Japan's three big brokers may fall after posting worse-than-expected results after Friday's market close. Nomura posted its biggest loss to date last year. Nikko Securities and Daiwa Securities also announced losses.

Still, with Golden Week holidays starting on Thursday and continuing next week, volume is likely to dwindle and gains may be capped. "No one wants to go out on a limb before a holiday," said Koichi Kurata, at Asahi Life Investment Management.