Tokyo stocks fell on Thursday, reflecting unabated concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus epidemic mainly in China.
The Nikkei average of 225 selected issues on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 33.48 points, or 0.14 percent, to end at 23,827.73, after climbing 175.23 points Wednesday.
The Topix index of all TSE first-section issues closed down 5.84 points, or 0.34 percent, at 1,713.08, following a 0.72-point drop the previous day.
The two indexes started lower on a news report before the opening bell that coronavirus infection cases in China’s Hubei Province spiked after China revised its method for counting such cases, brokers said. The province is at the center of the coronavirus crisis.
After the bout of sales, the Nikkei average temporarily rose to the positive side, as Shanghai and Hong Kong stocks showed some resilience in the morning and clothing store chain Fast Retailing fared well, they said. Fast Retailing is a heavyweight component of the key indicator.
In the afternoon, both of the Japanese indicators fluctuated within negative territory, as the Chinese markets met with renewed sales and sank deeper on the minus side.
After the report, the Hubei government announced that the coronavirus death toll within the province as of midnight Wednesday rose by 242 from the day before to 1,310, with the total number of infected people jumping by 14,840 to 48,206.
“In general, a wait-and-see mood was strong in the Tokyo market” as players waited for further news on the coronavirus outbreak, said Chihiro Ota, general manager for investment research and investor services at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.
Tomoaki Fujii, head of the investment research division at Akatsuki Securities Inc., said that investors in the Tokyo market “cannot be as aggressive” as those in the U.S. market, with Japan geographically closer to the epicenter of the outbreak.
The day’s news about the Hubei Province situation came after the Dow Jones industrial average Wednesday rewrote its all-time closing high on receded coronavirus fears because Chinese government data released that day indicated a slowdown in the pace of the virus’ spread within the province.
Fujii added that Tokyo market participants will refrain from active buying until the coronavirus situation has settled down.
On the TSE’s first section, falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,190 to 878 while 91 issues were unchanged. Volume decreased to 1.23 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.39 billion shares.
Recruitment agency En-Japan went limit-down with a 15.14 percent drop after announcing a downward revision to its operating profit outlook for the year to March.
Citizen Watch tumbled 9.38 percent, as its operating profit for April-December 2019 fell short of market consensus.
Technology investor Softbank Group and air conditioner maker Daikin were also sold.
On the other hand, Daiwa House rose for the first time in four trading days. Its April-December operating profit beat market consensus.
Among other major winners were chipmaking gear manufacturer Tokyo Electron and cosmetics maker Shiseido.
In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average fell 80 points to end at 23,790.