Japanese shares open higher on weak yen, strong US data

Japanese shares opened higher Monday as investors looked to strong US economic data and the weakening yen.

The Nikkei index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 0.32 percent or 39.74 points to 12,323.36 in first minutes of trading. The Topix of all first section shares added 0.92 percent or 9.41 points to 1,029.91.

Tokyo shares were tipped to firm on continued weakness of the yen against the dollar, particularly after US jobs data was far better than expected, analysts said.

The dollar was at 96.02 yen Monday morning in Tokyo, rising from 95.97 yen in New York Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile the euro stood at $1.2987 and 124.68 yen, down from $1.3004 and 124.83 yen in New York.

"The yen continues to be the focus of attention," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.

Nishi forecast the Nikkei could hover between 12,300 and 12,500, and said the market appeared "technically overbought in the short-term".

But US economic data had eased worries about the strength of the US recovery, analysts said.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at a fresh record for the fourth straight session after the Labor Department said the economy generated a net 236,000 new jobs in February, far more than expected.

That pushed the Dow over the 14,400 line for the first time, before finishing at 14,397.07, up 67.58 points or 0.47 percent.

The broader S&P 500 came close to surpassing its record high, set in October 2007, gaining 6.92 points or 0.45 percent to 1,551.18. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 12.28 points or 0.38 percent to 3,244.37.