Business / Financial Markets

Nikkei stretches downtrend to fifth session as COVID-19 infections grow

Jiji

Tokyo stocks continued to fall on Thursday, pressured by persistent concerns about the renewed spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Nikkei average of 225 selected issues listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange fell 57.88 points, or 0.26 percent, to end at 22,339.23, after dropping 260.27 points on Wednesday. It was the Nikkei’s fifth consecutive losing session.

The Topix index of all TSE first-section issues closed down 9.57 points, or 0.62 percent, at 1,539.47. It shed 20.08 points the previous day.

The Tokyo market opened higher on the heels of an overnight rise in U.S. equities that came after the U.S. Federal Reserve maintained its monetary easing policy at its two-day policy-setting meeting through Wednesday.

But Tokyo stocks gradually trimmed early gains later, with investors retreating to the sidelines to wait for the releases of business results from major Japanese firms amid persistent concerns over the adverse effects the coronavirus pandemic is having on corporate earnings, brokers said.

The market slipped into negative territory in the afternoon, partly because investor sentiment was chilled by media reports that Tokyo confirmed a record daily high of 367 coronavirus cases on Thursday, they said.

“Earnings releases planned by major U.S. technology firms such as Amazon.com and Apple later on Thursday also put investors on the sidelines,” said Tomoaki Fujii, head of the investment research division at Akatsuki Securities Inc.

The market was also weighed down in the afternoon by media reports that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to ask restaurants in the capital to shorten business hours by closing at 10 p.m. or earlier to prevent further cases of COVID-19, brokers said.

Falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,321 to 769 in the TSE’s first section, while 81 issues were unchanged.

Volume increased to 1.3 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.186 billion shares.

Daily goods maker Kao, Tokyo Gas, and department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi met with selling due to dismal earnings reports.

Convenience store chain Lawson extended its losing streak to an eighth session.

Among other losers were clothing store chain Fast Retailing and cosmetics maker Shiseido.

Meanwhile, brokerage giant Nomura, food maker Kagome and Hokuriku Electric attracted purchases thanks to their brisk earnings reports.

Also on the positive side were technology investor SoftBank Group and automaker Suzuki.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key September contract on the Nikkei average fell 20 points to end at 22,320.

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