• Kyodo, staff report

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he has tested positive for the coronavirus sent Tokyo stocks sliding Friday afternoon but drew a quiet response from the central government.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said he is aware of the news, but added the government is not in a position to comment on that as well as on the U.S. presidential election. Kato also noted that Trump’s doctor had said the American leader is feeling fine.

“We have not heard so far that any changes in schedule were made to U.S. Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo’s visit to Japan,” Kato said, referring to the top American envoy’s expected visit to Tokyo next week.

Kato’s tight-lipped answer contrasted with that of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

“It’s big news. I found out just before the beginning of this news conference,” Koike told reporters. “In the United States, masks are the subject of political controversy so I suppose this could be a consequence of that.”

“This will have an impact on everything,” she said.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended down 155.22 points, or 0.67 percent, from Wednesday at 23,029.90. The broader TOPIX index of all first-section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished down 16.27 points, or 1 percent at 1,609.22.

The U.S. dollar fell to around the ¥105 line from the ¥105 range soon after Trump said he and his wife, Melania, were infected with the virus and would start quarantine. They were tested after one of the 74-year-old president’s close aides tested positive for the virus.

An electronic stock board is seen outside a securities firm in Tokyo on Friday, as the Tokyo Stock Exchange resumed trading following a hardware breakdown the previous day. | KYODO
An electronic stock board is seen outside a securities firm in Tokyo on Friday, as the Tokyo Stock Exchange resumed trading following a hardware breakdown the previous day. | KYODO

The announcement, which comes as Trump enters the final stretch of his re-election campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 election, unsettled the market, adding to uncertainty over U.S. economic stimulus measures to fight the impact of the pandemic.

The virus is believed to have a more serious effect on older people and “the president is old,” said Shingo Ide, chief equity strategist at the NLI Research Institute. “Market players thought this will give (his challenger Joe) Biden an edge.”

Biden’s push for tax hikes on wealthier people and large companies has negative implications for stock markets, brokers said.

Trading in Tokyo stocks returned to normal Friday after the exchange suffered the previous day its worst outage since it fully computerized trading in 1999.

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