• Jiji


The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average turned up, albeit only slightly, on Friday after bleeding for four sessions in a row amid ever-increasing fears over the raging novel coronavirus.

The Nikkei inched up 1.47 points, or 0.01 pct, to close at 17,820.19. On Thursday, it plunged 246.69 points.

Meanwhile, the Topix index of all first-section issues shed 4.74 points, or 0.36 percent, to end at 1,325.13, after dropping 21.21 points the previous day.

Stocks spurted in the early morning, with sentiment brightened by the yen’s weakening against the dollar, a Wall Street rebound and New York crude oil futures’ rally on the back of growing hopes for an oil output curb agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, brokers said.

The Tokyo market soon lost steam, as investors renewed their concerns over the coronavirus crisis in view of spikes in the number of people infected with virus in Japan, the United States and other parts of the world.

Both the Nikkei and Topix indexes were pulled down into negative territory by a drop in U.S. Dow Jones index futures in off-hours trading in the early afternoon and moved on a weak tone toward the closing bell.

Bracing for the Japanese government’s possible declaration of a state of emergency to prevent the virus from spreading further, investors stepped up moves to square equity-long positions ahead of the weekend, brokers said.

But in the final minutes of the day’s trading the Nikkei was buoyed by buybacks prompted by the Dow futures paring losses, they added.

Selling pressure built up in the afternoon as investors increasingly “feared” that U.S. stocks would tumble following the release later on Friday of the closely watched employment report by the government for March and of the Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index for the same month, both of which were expected to show substantial deterioration, Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co., said.

Maki Sawada, vice president of Nomura Securities Co.’s Investment Research & Investor Services Department, said that the market was also weighed down by drops in the Chinese markets.

On the first section, falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,653 to 467 while 48 issues were unchanged. Volume decreased to 1.499 billion shares from Thursday’s 1.644 billion shares.

Crude oil-linked Inpex and Japex jumped 2.63 percent and 2.08 percent, respectively.

Denka Co. skyrocketed 24.03 percent, thanks to the chemical firm’s announcement that it will in May start producing an ingredient for Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s Avigan influenza drug, now under a clinical trial to check its safety and efficacy in treating coronavirus patients.

Other major winners were clothing store chain Fast Retailing Co. and air conditioner-maker Daikin Industries.

On the other hand, pub chain Torikizoku Co. plummeted by 14.85 pct and industry peer Kushikatsu Tanaka Holdings Co. by 9.78 pct, due to their decisions to halt business operations amid the virus scare.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average plunged 180 points to end at 17,680.

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