Roundup: Japan’s Nikkei closes lower as record COVID-19 cases in capital dents sentiment

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TOKYO, July 17 (Xinhua) — Tokyo stocks closed lower Friday as earlier gains were reversed as fresh record high coronavirus cases confirmed in Tokyo raised concerns over restrictions being reissued and the country’s recession-hit economy being further hampered.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped 73.94 points, or 0.32 percent, from Thursday to close the day at 22,696.42.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, lost 5.21 points, or 0.33 percent, to finish at 1,573.85.

A comparatively weak yen versus the U.S. dollar in early trade lifted exporter issues which had a positive bearing on the broader market, analysts here said.

They added, however, that early gains were reversed in later trade as the Japanese currency firmed on reports daily COVID-19 cases hit a fresh record high in the Japanese capital.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday said the number of daily coronavirus cases rose to 293 amid rising concerns about a second wave of infections.

The latest record figure follows the previous day’s record of 286, underscoring the the metropolitan government’s decision Wednesday to raise its virus alert level to the highest on its four tier scale, confirming that infections are spreading.

Over the past seven days, the average daily figure of newly confirmed infections in the capital of 14 million people has topped 200, market strategists here highlighted.

“Amid the sharp increase in virus cases in Tokyo, fears grew that a resurgence of infections would spread nationwide and stall an economic rebound,” Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co., was quoted as saying.

The rise in cases sent air transportation issues lower on concerns easing of restrictions on travel may be set back owing to rising domestic infections, with rising overseas COVID-19 cases fueled ongoing concerns about the decreased pace of the global recovery from the pandemic.

Equity strategists said, however, that investors would be looking to domestic corporate earnings results next week for trading cues based on indications of firms’ resilience to the downside effects of the virus on operations, while hopes for major central banks’ easing policies supporting stock markets remained intact.

“Expectations remained firm that the easing of monetary policy by major central banks will support stock markets. Investors’ focus will be on the virus infection situation and domestic companies’ earnings next week,” Toshikazu Horiuchi, equity strategist at IwaiCosmo Securities Co., was quoted as saying.

By the close of play, air transportation, real estate, and iron and steel issues comprised those that declined the most.

The latest virus spike in Tokyo hurt airlines, with ANA Holdings diving 3.6 percent, while Japan Airlines dropped 2.3 percent by the close.

Real estate issues also lost ground, with Mitsui Fudosan losing 2.3 percent, while Tokyu Fudosan ended 2.6 percent lower.

Bucking the downward trend, semiconductor issues advanced on hopes for increased demand as people continue to use electronic devices for work and entertainment amid ongoing virus-induced teleworking and increased at-home entertainment.

As such, Screen Holdings gained 1.9 percent, while Advantest Corp. climbed nearly 2 percent. Electronic device maker Alps Alpine Co., for its part, added 1.4 percent.

Issues that fell outpaced those that rose by 1,272 to 827 on the First Section, while 72 ended the day unchanged.

On the main section on Friday, 999.71 million shares changed hands, dropping from Thursday’s volume of 1,475.64 million shares.

The turnover on the final trading day of the week came to 1.802 trillion yen (16.820 billion U.S. dollars). Enditem

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