Tokyo stocks close higher on Fed chief's rate signals

Tokyo stocks closed higher on Wednesday, snapping a five-day losing streak after the US Federal Reserve chief signalled a greater openness to cutting interest rates.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 1.80% at 20 776.10, while the broader Topix index gained 2.07% at 1 530.08.

In a speech in Chicago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged trade conflicts had dimmed the growth outlook - remarks widely seen as opening the door to a potential interest rate cut.

"We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the US economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion," Powell said.

That marked a shift from recent Powell statements, driving US stocks, already positive on optimistic trade news, even higher.

"Fed Chair Powell's speech hit the right balance appeasing equity markets by confirming the Fed stands ready to act in order to sustain the current economic expansion if trade tensions hamper US economic growth," Rodrigo Catril, senior strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a note.

Worries over trade tensions receded "following reports that China's commerce ministry said the trade friction should be resolved through dialogue, and reports that US Republicans are moving to block" US President Donald Trump's plan to impose fresh tariffs on all Mexican goods, said Mitsuhiro Shibata, strategist at Daiwa Securities.

"A broad range of shares were bought, but especially export-reliant shares, that had dipped in recent sessions on worries over the US-China trade war, gained sharply," he added.

The dollar fetched ¥108.00 in late Tokyo afternoon trade, against ¥108.14 in New York.

In Tokyo, high-tech shares were higher with chip-testing equipment maker Advantest gaining 3.14% to ¥2 659 and industrial robot maker Fanuc jumping 2.98% to ¥18 800.

Automakers were also among the winners, with Toyota closing 2.54% higher at ¥6 530 and Honda ending up 2.87% at ¥2 795.

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