Tokyo stocks end above 18,000 for first time in 7 years

People walking in front of a share prices board in Tokyo on Feb 16, 2015. Tokyo's main stock index closed above 18,000 for the first time in more than seven years on Monday, after official data showed Japan emerged from recession in the last qua
People walking in front of a share prices board in Tokyo on Feb 16, 2015. Tokyo's main stock index closed above 18,000 for the first time in more than seven years on Monday, after official data showed Japan emerged from recession in the last quarter of 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo's main stock index closed above 18,000 for the first time in more than seven years on Monday, after official data showed Japan emerged from recession in the last quarter of 2014.

The Nikkei 225 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 0.51 percent, or 91.41 points, to finish at 18,004.77, breaching the psychologically key level for the first time since July 2007.

The broader Topix index of all first-section shares climbed 0.69 percent, or 10.05 points, to 1,459.43.

Shortly before markets opened, government figures showed the world's number three economy limped out of recession with growth of 0.6 per cent in the October-December quarter. Forecasts had been for a 0.9 percent expansion.

"Even though it missed estimates, the figures are positive which means at least the direction of the recovery is right," Ayako Sera, a markets strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, told Bloomberg News.

"People haven't completely lost hope on growth." Wall Street provided a strong lead with the S&P 500 ending 0.41 percent up at a record high of 2,096.99.

The Dow added 0.26 per cent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.75 percent.

Sentiment got a boost as Greece's leadership said it was upbeat that it could hammer out a new debt deal with its European creditors.

Global markets are hoping an agreement can be reached before the end of the month, when Greece's bailout is due to expire. Failure to agree on an extension would see it default on its giant debts and likely mean it would crash out of the eurozone.

In Tokyo share trading, Japan's biggest lender Mitsubishi UFJ jumped 3.09 per cent to 729.0 yen, while factory robotics giant Fanuc surged 3.41 per cent to 22,390.0 yen, as the leading Nikkei business daily said it would invest 130 billion yen in new facilities in Japan by the end of 2016.

Auto parts maker Takata tumbled 5.37 per cent to 1,321.0 yen after its biggest customer Honda said it would not give the struggling company financial help.

Takata has been plunged into crisis after a defect in its airbag inflators - which could cause fatal shrapnel to be fired at drivers - was linked to at least five deaths, sparking the recall of more than 20 million vehicles.

In forex markets, the dollar weakened to 118.46 yen, from 118.74 yen in New York on Friday.