Vaccine optimism, GDP data boost Japan stocks to 29-year high

TOKYO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks touched a 29-year high on Monday after the economy posted its first expansion in four quarters and as progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine continued to lift global markets.

The Nikkei 225 Index was up 1.54% at 25,776.56 by 0200 GMT. At the open of trade, the Nikkei jumped to the highest since June 1991. The broader Topix gained 1.31% to 1,725.56.

Japan’s economy grew at an annualized 21.4% clip, beating a median market forecast for an 18.9% gain, Cabinet Office data showed on Monday, marking the first increase in four quarters and followed a 28.8% plunge between April-June.

Vaccine optimism outshone worries about rising coronavirus cases globally, with news from Johnson & Johnson giving markets a further boost. The U.S. drugmaker launched a late-stage trial of its vaccine in Britain on Monday, shortly after promising developments from Pfizer and Moderna Inc about work on their respective drug studies.

Though some analysts advise caution in the near term as the United States and Europe are reintroducing restrictions to contain a recent surge in new infections, which could cause a brief spell of increased market volatility.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc up 3.99%, followed by Honda Motor Co Ltd gaining 3.64%.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were Nintendo Co Ltd down 1.38%, followed by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd losing 1%.

Shares of Rakuten rose 2.65% after the internet commerce company said it will team up with private equity firm KKR to buy a controlling stake in Japanese retailer Seiyu.

There were 206 advancers in the Nikkei index against 16 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.58 billion, compared with the average of 1.12 billion in the past 30 days.

Reporting by Stanley White, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips