TOKYO -- Several factors have been boosting shares in Japan's SoftBank Group, including takeovers and high expectations for the tech company's U.S. telecom operations, but investors have been especially focused on one buzzword recently: artificial intelligence.
Since Softbank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son met with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 6, the company's stock price has risen 13%, hitting the 8,000 yen mark for the first time in two years on Wednesday.
A growing number of market experts are predicting that AI -- particularly developments in the U.S. -- will be a major market mover in 2017. Since Trump's election victory on Nov. 8, stocks related energy, public related works and finance have fared especially well.
Investors are paying close attention to the technology that drives AI, as reflected in the PHLX Semiconductor Sector Index's surge of over 30% since the start of the year.
Many market watchers believe that Trump's meeting on Thursday with tech executives, many of whom opposed him during the campaign, will help him mend fences with the industry. This has also provided a tailwind for AI-related stocks.
Masamitsu Oki, a director at Fivestar Asset Management, said SoftBank is the core AI-related stock in the Japanese stock market, as the company's acquisition of British chip designer ARM Holdings means it now controls the global standards for semiconductor design.
Son's pledge to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs there has also sparked buying. Many expect the bulk of those jobs to be in the IT sector, which would likely support AI development.
As progress in AI would benefit a wide range of fields, from self-driving cars to the internet of things, many companies stand to be rewarded in the stock market.
A big focus among investors now is whether SoftBank can keep driving the upward momentum in AI-related stocks after the current Trump rally wanes.