December 18, 2013 4:45 pm JST

Nikkei index tops 15,500 as Fed taper decision looms

TOKYO -- Japanese stocks surged past the 15,500 line Wednesday. Investors were apparently betting that a possible U.S. decision to taper quantitative easing had already been factored into prices. 

     The Nikkei Stock Average ended the day up 309.17 points, or 2.02%, at 15,587.80. The benchmark index had not closed above 15,500 since Dec. 11.

     The yen's recent sharp depreciation helped to buoy the market. Japan's Finance Ministry also released trade data for November before the bell, showing a 6.1% year-on-year jump in export volume -- the largest gain in about 18 months. Investors snapped up exporters.

     All told, more than 90% of Nikkei average components rose. 

     Speculation is swirling that the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee is about to decide to scale back bond purchases. The FOMC meeting is scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday U.S. time.