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TOKYO: Japan’s Nikkei closed marginally higher on Wednesday as gains in blue-chip stocks such as Sony Group and Toyota Motor outweighed weakness in technology heavyweights fuelled by fears of early U.S. interest rate hikes.

The Nikkei share average rose 0.1% to 29,332.16, after falling into negative territory multiple times during the day, while the broader Topix gained 0.46% to 2,039.27.

The Mothers Index of start-up firms slumped 5% to its lowest since May 2020 as prospects of early rate increases by the U.S. central bank drove a sell-off in expensive growth stocks.

“With interest rates in the United States likely to rise soon, investors sold companies whose PERs (price-earnings ratios) were high,” said Ikuo Mitsui, a fund manager at Aizawa Securities.

“On the other hand, companies with strong fundamentals attracted investors. For example, Toyota is a favourable stock as its production is expected to recover this year and the weakened yen could boost its earnings.”

Toyota rose 2.57%, extending its rally after the automaker outsold General Motors in the United States in 2021, marking the first time that the Detroit automaker has not led U.S. auto sales for a full year since 1931.

Sony Group jumped 3.67% to become the biggest contributor to the Nikkei as the game maker unveiled plans to launch a company this spring to examine entering the electric vehicle market.

The insurance sector was the top gainer with a rise of 3.16% among the exchange’s 33 industry sub indexes, on hopes that higher interest rates were likely to boost profits.

U.S. Treasury yields for most maturities rose overnight, as investors geared up for interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve by mid-year to curb stubbornly high inflation.

Technology heavyweights fell, with chip-equipment maker Tokyo Electron falling 1.4% and medical services platform M3 losing 6.42%. Medical equipment maker Terumo fell 2.17%.

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