Japanese shares gain on recovery hopes, Topix at 20-year high

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - Japanese shares gained on Tuesday and the Topix index hit its best level in 20 years, as high-flying technology stocks tracked Wall Street higher on hopes for a strong economic recovery in the United States, one of Japan’s biggest trading partners.

The broader Topix climbed 0.57% to 1,979.92 by 0154 GMT, rising to its highest since May 1991. The Nikkei share average gained 0.85% to 30,018.92, reclaiming its 30,000 mark for the first time since Feb. 25.

“The market sentiment is very strong. It’s lifted by the optimism that most of Japanese companies would benefit from the recovery of the U.S. economy,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

“Investor confidence was boosted also because the U.S. bond yields retreated. Cash payments to American individuals, followed by the passage of the U.S. economic relief package, is another reason to support the market.”

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at record highs on Monday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed over 1%.

Japan’s technology shares advanced too, with SoftBank Group jumping 2.6%, Tokyo Electron rising 1.56% and Advantest jumping 3.6%.

In the airline sector, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines rose 2.91% and 3.81%, respectively, tracking U.S. peers Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines , which said leisure bookings were rising.

Travel agency H.I.S. gained 2.09% despite the COVID-19 crisis leading it to a 7.9 billion yen ($72.34 million) quarterly net loss.

E-commerce firm Rakuten Inc fell 3.11% after surging up to 24% on Monday on news about a capital tie-up with Japan Post Holdings.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Nintendo Co, up 3.98%, followed by SoftBank Group.

The underperformers among the Topix 30 were Toyota Motor , down 0.92%, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group , 0.86% lower. ($1 = 109.2000 yen) (Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Devika Syamnath)