Market Overview

Seven Japanese Stocks Up More Than 10% Year to Date

Japanese companies had a rough 2011, following last spring's earthquake and nuclear crisis. But the stocks listed here have started off the year on a good footing, rising between 10% and 35% year to date. They represent a cross-section of Japan's manufacturing sector, all are traded on U.S. exchanges, and each pays a dividend, too.

Advantest (NYSE: ATE) rose more than 33% in the past month but is still down about 41% from a year ago. This Tokyo-based maker of semiconductor testing systems announced in January the launch of a diesel emissions analysis service. The company was founded in 1954 and now has a market cap of $2.1 billion. Its dividend yield is 0.9%. However, the stock has underperformed Massachusetts-based competitor Teradyne (NYSE: TER) over the past six months.

Honda Motor (NYSE: HMC) is up about 16% year to date, despite pulling back late last week. Its Super Bowl ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick were highly rated, and part of a plan to increase sales, particularly in the Acura division. Honda's P/E ratio is less than that of larger competitor Toyota, and its operating margin is better than Toyota's too. Over the past six months, the stock's performance has been largely in line with Nissan, Toyota and General Motors (NYSE: GM).

Kubota (NYSE: KUB) is trading more than 15% higher year to date, including up about 6% in the past week. This farming machinery and infrastructure producer announced in December that it would acquire Norwegian farming equipment maker Kverneland. Kubota's operating margin is higher than the industry average. The $12.4 billion market cap company has a dividend yield of 1.6%. The stock has underperformed CNH Global (NYSE: CNH) and Deere (NYSE: DE) over the past six months.

See also: Asian Stocks Surge Higher on Greek Hopes

Makita (NASDAQ: MKTAY) is more than 17% higher than a month ago despite pulling back 1.5% in the past week. The company makes and sells drills and other power tools worldwide. It is based in Anjo City, has a market cap of $5.3 billion and its dividend yield is 1.6%. The P/E ratio is less than that of larger competitor Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE: SWK), and its operating margin is better as well. But over the past six months, the stock has underperformed Black & Decker.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (NYSE: MTU) shares are trading up more than 16% year to date despite a pullback late last week along with other regional financials. It posted higher net income recently due to lower credit costs and an increase in loans and deposits. The market cap is $69.1 billion and the dividend yield is 1.5%. Over the past six months, though, the stock has underperformed peers Mizuho Financial (NYSE: MFG) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial (NYSE: SMFG).

Nidec (NYSE: NJ) is trading almost 11% higher year to date but has pulled back slightly in the past week. The board recently approved the repurchase of up to 3 million of this electric motor producer's shares. The Kyoto-based company has a dividend yield of 0.6%, a market cap of $13.9 billion, and a long-term EPS growth forecast of 15.1%. Over the past six months, the stock has outperformed the likes of NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) and Panasonic (NYSE: PC).

Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM) shares are trading more than 18% higher year to date despite a pullback late last week on news of an investigation into reports of fires in the driver side doors of some of its cars. Toyota's dividend yield is 1.3%, the market cap is $135.1 billion and the long-term EPS growth forecast is 24.0%. The automaker raised its EPS and sales outlooks last week. The stock's performance has been in line with General Motors and Honda over the past six months.

See also: How to Profit from Japan's Stealth Currency Intervention

ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish: Investors interested in exchange traded funds focused on Japan might want to consider the following trades:

  • ProShares Ultra MSCI Japan (NYSE: EZJ) is more than 11% higher year to date.
  • SPDR Russell/Nomura PRIME Japan (NYSE: JPP) is more than 7% higher year to date.
  • WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity (NYSE: DXJ) is more than 6% higher year to date.
  • iShares MSCI Japan Index (NYSE: EWJ) is more than 5% higher year to date.
Bearish:

Traders may prefer to consider these alternative positions:

  • ProShares UltraShort MSCI Japan (NYSE: EWV) is more than 6% higher than a year ago.
  • ProShares UltraShort Yen (NYSE: YCS) is about 1.5% higher year to date.
Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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