Japanese markets remained bullish Thursday, discounting new government data pointing to weakness in capital spending, as investors instead showed continued hope that an economic recovery is on track.
The Cabinet Office said Japanese core machinery orders, considered a leading indicator of capital outlays, fell 9.3% in July from June, a deeper drop than the 3.6% average decrease expected by economists surveyed by Nikkei and Dow Jones Newswires.
But the notoriously volatile data set failed to derail the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average's rally. The Nikkei was up 1.6% in early afternoon trading, and the broader Topix index of all issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's First Section was up 1.8%.
Banking shares were among gainers, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.(MTU) up 3.2%, Mizuho Financial Group Inc.(MFG) up 3.0% and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. (SMFJY) up 2.8%.
Those gains were helped by a broad regional rally, with South Korea's Kospi up 1.5%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rising 0.6%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ahead by 1.4%.
Richard Jerram, chief economist at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo, that despite its status in tipping future growth or contraction, the machinery orders figure, by itself, should not be seen as a predictor of the economy's direction.
"Machinery orders is a series where it is important to understand the underlying dynamics and not become too excited or depressed by a single number," Jerram said in a reportThursday.
He cited last month's 9.7% on-month increase in June orders, which came in about 7 percentage points ahead of expectations, while the 9.3% on-month drop for July in the latest report came in about 6 percentage points below.
"All this really tells us is that the margin for error is wide on this lumpy and naturally volatile series, making it all the more important to cross-reference other leading indicators of capital spending," he said.
Many investors have a problem with the idea that capital spending begins to improve when there is still excess capacity in the system, he said, but this situation "is invariably the case."
The early stages of a recovery cycle "are driven by new technologies or emerging areas of demand, as well as by replacement capex that had perhaps been delayed due to uncertainties," he said. "Rising cash flows and profitability give firms the funds to invest, as well as the expectations of positive returnson the spending."
A separate set of data from the Bank of Japan showed pressure on wholesale prices remains, with the corporate goods price index for August dropping 8.5% from a year earlier, slightly more than the 8.4% expected by economists surveyed by Reuters.
The index fell 8.5% on year in July, which was the biggest decline on record.
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