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Eyes on Nobel Prize in Japan with shares set for boost

Stock market speculators are betting on shares that benefit from the prestigious awards

Haruki Murakami is planning an archive at Waseda University. Henning Bagger / AFP
Haruki Murakami is planning an archive at Waseda University. Henning Bagger / AFP

Predicting Nobel Prize winners has never been an easy business but that has not stopped stock market speculators in Tokyo from betting on shares that could benefit should any of the prestigious awards go to a Japanese writer or scientist.

Now that it is Nobel week - with prizes including sciences and literature being announced in Stockholm - investors have bought shares in bookstore operators and biotech firms, on hopes even the remotest link to a winner could boost their value.

The possibility that the Nobel Committee might award Akira Yoshino the prize for chemistry on Wednesday, in recognition of his contribution to the invention of the lithium ion battery widely used in electric cars, smartphones and computers, significantly boosted shares in Nippon Carbon, and Showa Denko

Shares of Nippon Carbon, which makes electrodes for lithium batteries, have risen 16 per cent in the past week. Showa Denko, another electrode manufacturer, has risen 14 per cent.


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Similarly, some Japanese investors are hoping that novelist Haruki Murakami, who has been among bookmakers' favourites for the Nobel prize for literature in recent years, finally wins that award, to be announced on Thursday.

Maruzen CHI Holdings, a bookstore chain operator, rose 1.7 per cent, hitting a two-month high on Monday. It was down 0.3 per cent on Tuesday.

Showing a even clearer reaction are shares of Bunkyodo, Japan's biggest bookshop chain.

In fact, since 2014 Bunkyodo shares have spiked in early October almost every year, only to drop sharply later in the month.

Bunkyodo shares held near a one-year peak on Tuesday but were down 2.2 per cent in the past week.

Speculators hoping a Japanese scientist would be awarded the prize for medicine were disappointed on Monday recognised for their work. The award went to three US-born scientists for their work on biological clocks.

As a consequence, Ono Pharmaceutical dropped 2.3 per cent on Tuesday even as the overall market gained.

The stock had experienced an unusually strong rally of 9 per cent in the previous two days on hopes that Tasuku Honjo, whose study contributed to development of the firm's cancer drug Opdivo, could win a Nobel prize.

"Ono shares have been driven up for months by hopes the government may not cut price for drugs next year but in recent days there was buying to anticipate a Nobel Prize bonanza," said Tomoichiro Kubota, a senior market analyst at Matsui Securities.

The drug maker has market capitalisation of US$13.3 billion and its shares are usually much less volatile with beta of less than 0.5, meaning they are more than 50 per cent less volatile than the average.

Updated: October 3, 2017 07:13 PM