• Kyodo, Reuters


Tokyo stocks fell for the fourth day straight on Thursday, pulling Nikkei index below 22,000 for the first time since October amid concerns about an increase in COVID-19 infections around the world.

Fears that the spreading virus would stall the global economy sent all industrial categories down, led by air transportation, securities house and mining issues.

The 225-issue Nikkei average ended down 477.96 points, or 2.13 percent, from Wednesday at 21,948.23 — its lowest finish since Oct. 11.

The broader Topix index of all first-section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished down 38.11 points, or 2.37 percent, at 1,568.06.

The Nikkei fell more than 570 points at one point following a warning by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that the new virus will likely spread in the U.S., after confirming the first infection of unknown origin in California.

With reports of new infections elsewhere, including Germany, Switzerland and Brazil, fears of a possible pandemic sparked heavy selling, brokers said.

“Anxiety about the virus and fears of its impact on global growth seem to have risen to a new level,” said Shingo Ide, chief equity strategist at NLI Research Institute.

“As we cannot see any signs of progress being made on the virus front, the Nikkei gauge could go down to the 21,000 line in the coming week or two,” he added.

A news report quoting an International Olympic Committee member as saying the outbreak might delay the Tokyo Games by a year also dampened sentiment, brokers said.

But some investors snapped up shares from recent falls, recouping part of earlier losses, they said.

Fears about a rapid global spread of COVID-19 weighed on the dollar as well, which fell against the yen to around the ¥110 line. A tour bus guide in Japan who also tested positive for the virus for a second time has raised more questions about how the pathogen spreads.

On the TSE’s first section, declining issues outnumbered advancers 2,059 to 77, while 21 ended unchanged.

Air transportation issues struggled on expectations the outbreak would hurt demand. ANA Holdings sagged ¥163.00, or 5.3 percent to ¥2,899.00 and Japan Airlines sank ¥127.00, or 4.5 percent, to ¥2,695.50.

Mining, oil and coal related issues continued to fall because a global slowdown would weigh on demand for raw materials and fuels.

Mitsui Mining and Smelting dropped ¥138, or 4.9 percent, to ¥2,672, oil refiner JXTG Holdings skidded ¥13.90, or 3.0 percent, to ¥444.60, and explorer Inpex sank ¥31.80, or 3.2 percent, to ¥958.50.

Trading volume on the main section rose to 1.81 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.68 billion shares.

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