Tokyo stocks turned slightly lower on Thursday, weighed down by selling to lock in profits amid persistent concerns over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nikkei average of 225 selected issues listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange edged down 7.47 points, or 0.04 percent, to end at 19,345.77, after surging 403.06 points on Wednesday to mark the fourth straight session of gains.
The Topix index of all TSE first-section issues dipped 8.49 points, or 0.60 percent, to close at 1,416.98. It added 22.26 points the previous day.
The Tokyo market came under profit-taking pressure after the Nikkei gained more than 1,500 points over the past four sessions through Wednesday, brokers said.
Trading was relatively quiet in the absence of active trading by foreign investors ahead of the Easter weekend overseas, including Good Friday, they said.
“Many investors in Tokyo found it difficult to take aggressive positions also before the release of new unemployment insurance claims data in the United States later on Thursday,” said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co.
The U.S. weekly report posted a record 6.64 million jobless claims last week, and the market expects around 5 million unemployment claims in the upcoming report.
“An unexpected outcome may force the Nikkei to move by 500 to 600 points,” Miura said.
The Nikkei stayed in negative territory for most of Thursday’s session, despite an overnight 3.44 percent jump of the U.S. Dow Jones industrial average that reflected hopes for a slowdown in new coronavirus cases.
“Concerns over the virus outbreak remained strong in Tokyo after the daily number of newly infected patients in Japan hit a record high the previous day,” another brokerage official said.
Despite the falls in the key indexes, rising issues outnumbered falling ones 1,098 to 1,007 on the TSE’s first section, while 64 issues were unchanged.
Volume declined to 1.368 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.681 billion shares.
Railway operators and securities firms were hit hard, with JR East down 2.59 percent and brokerage giant Nomura down 3.27 percent.
Saizeriya plunged after the Italian restaurant chain revised down its projection for consolidated operating profit for the year to August.
Among other losers were daily goods maker Kao and mobile phone carrier KDDI.
By contrast, oil names Inpex and Cosmo Energy attracted purchases thanks to higher crude oi prices.
Also on the positive side were clothing store chain Fast Retailing and industrial robot producer Fanuc.
In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average jumped 570 points to end at 19,490.