The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average managed to end higher on Thursday after struggling to find a direction amid a lack of fresh incentives.

The Nikkei average of selected issues on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed up 16.55 points, or 0.07 percent, at 23,933.13, after dropping 108.59 points Wednesday.

On the other hand, the Topix index of all TSE first-section issues was down 2.34 points, or 0.14 percent, at 1,728.72. It shed 9.47 points the previous day.

The market opened higher thanks to buybacks on the back of rises in all three major U.S. stock indexes on Wednesday following the signing of a much-awaited “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal.

After the round of buying ran its course, however, both the Nikkei and the Topix failed to expand their gains in the face of increased profit-taking amid the dearth of fresh market-moving news, brokers said.

The Nikkei drifted slightly above Wednesday’s closing level for most of the day’s trading, while its downside was supported by the strength of Fast Retailing and other heavily weighted component issues, they said.

The Topix lost steam soon after the firmer start and remained in negative territory for the rest of the day.

“The Tokyo market’s reaction to the U.S.-China trade deal was muted as it fell in line with what investors had expected,” Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management Co., said.

Investors found it difficult to tilt their positions either way, as the bilateral deal came as “neither a positive nor a negative surprise,” he added.

Akira Tanoue, senior investment strategist at Nomura Securities Co., noted that the market’s attention has shifted to the release of business results by Japanese companies, which will peak later this month.

Other sources said that players are now focusing on U.S.-China negotiations related to a “phase two” trade deal between the world’s two largest economies.

On the TSE’s first section, falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,406 to 654, while 100 issues were unchanged. Volume dropped to 1.03 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.12 billion shares.

Daiwabo Holdings and Shikibo, both surgical mask manufacturers, rose 4.82 percent and 2.65 percent, respectively, as on Thursday the health ministry announced Japan’s first case of a new type of coronavirus that has caused an outbreak of pneumonia in the inland Chinese city of Wuhan.

Nippon Chemiphar surged 10.35 percent on the back of a media report that the company has developed a device that can test 41 allergens using only a single drop of blood.

Among other major winners were sports goods-maker Asics and automaker Suzuki.

On the other hand, semiconductor-related issues, including Sumco and Disco, met with selling due to a fall in the SOX Philadelphia semiconductor index on Wednesday.

Other losers included cosmetics maker Shiseido and game-maker Bandai Namco.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average rose 30 points to 23,940.