Stocks in Tokyo turned sharply lower Tuesday in the wake of heightened fears over the spread of a new coronavirus battering Chinese shares.
The Nikkei 225 average dropped 218.95 points, or 0.91 percent, to end at 23,864.56, snapping a three-session winning streak. It rose 42.25 points Monday.
The Topix, which covers all issues on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closed 9.19 points, or 0.53 percent, lower at 1,734.97 after advancing 8.72 points Monday.
The market opened slightly weaker and moved sideways in the absence of trading cues from Wall Street, which was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
But investors accelerated selling in midmorning trading after seeing the Shanghai and Hong Kong markets open lower and sink deeper amid growing fears over a possible pandemic of deadly pneumonia caused by the virus, brokers said. The Nikkei lost more than 230 points.
The yen’s firming against the dollar also dampened sentiment, they added.
After the bout of sell orders were executed, however, both indexes moved narrowly while staying in negative territory amid a dearth of fresh incentives.
“Media reports that Chinese authorities confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus have made players worried about the possibility of the disease spreading across the globe during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday in China,” said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co.
Investors were particularly concerned over the likelihood of the Chinese economy’s slowdown, he noted.
Meanwhile, an official at a bank-affiliated brokerage house official downplayed the midmorning tumble, saying that “when volume is thin, market moves tend to be exaggerated.”
Commenting on the subsequent calmness, Miura said participants retreated to the sidelines to see how U.S. stocks will react to the virus news.
On the first section, falling issues slightly outnumbered rising ones 1,041 to 1,002, while 116 issues were unchanged. Volume rose marginally to 912 million shares from 821 million Monday.
Stocks that are linked with visitors to Japan and may be affected by the spread of the virus were shunned. Among them were cosmetics makers Shiseido and Kose, airlines JAL and ANA, and travel agency H.I.S.
Other losers included convenience store chain FamilyMart and Nippon Paint Holdings.
On the other hand, surgical mask manufacturer Shikibo rocketed 10.78 percent, and its industry peer Daiwabo Holdings climbed 1.02 percent.
Also on the positive side were automaker Toyota and food producer Meiji Holdings.