Takaki Nakanishi
Bank of America
Merrill Lynch
"He analyzes financial data, statistics and long-term strategy with extraordinary precision."

Takaki Nakanishi rises one rung to finish on top for the first time since 2009. Investors praise the Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst for his extensive industry knowledge, which is rooted in "long-standing, cemented relationships with managements at all of the car companies," according to one ally. Nakanishi says he has "high hopes for earnings growth" at Aichi-based automaker Toyota Motor Corp., thanks to the "increased strategic value of its domestic production footprint, progress in rebuilding the U.S. competitive franchise and improved pricing." The shares were trading at ¥5,020 in mid-March, and Nakanishi believes the price will rise to ¥5,500 within the next 12 months. Another top pick is Honda Motor Co., owing to the Tokyo-based manufacturer's "growth strategy in emerging economies" and the "concrete realization of its products' competitive power," the researcher says. He predicts a 12 percent rise in year-over-year sales in fiscal 2014, which began April 1, and has set a 12-month price objective on the stock of ¥3,900; the shares were trading at ¥3,820 in mid-March. Nakanishi, 50, "can analyze a car part-by-part — from the front fenders to the tail lights, and from the factory floor to the showroom," marvels one backer. — Paul Sweeney