Tokyo stocks sink deeper as markets factor in China COVID worries

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo Stock Exchange

TOKYO — Tokyo stocks continued to slide Thursday, following U.S. shares’ broad-based drop amid rekindled concerns over surging coronavirus cases in China and a resulting slowdown in the global economy.

The Nikkei average of 225 selected issues listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Prime section lost 246.83 points, or 0.94%, to finish at 26,093.67, after dropping 107.37 points on Wednesday.

The broader TOPIX index ended 13.75 points, or 0.72%, lower at 1,895.27, with its loss expanding from the previous day’s 1.13 points.

Selling pressure mounted from the outset, after all three major U.S. stock indexes fell sharply Wednesday due chiefly to COVID-19 fears, with the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rewriting a year-to-date low.

The benchmark Nikkei average fell below 26,000 for the first time since Oct. 3 on an intraday basis.

“Sentiment was chilled by media reports that almost half of the passengers on two flights from China to Milan tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, chief market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management Co.

“China’s relaxation of its ‘zero-COVID’ containment policy was initially welcomed as a move to put the Chinese economy back on the recovery path, but investors are now worried about coronavirus cases spreading again from the country to other parts of the world,” he noted.

“Rising Japanese and U.S. long-term interest rates also weighed on the market,” said Kazuo Kamitani, strategist at Nomura Securities Co.

In the afternoon, stock resisted falling further.

Investors took heart to some extent from a rise in Nasdaq futures in premarket trading, Kamitani said.

On the Prime section, gainers slightly outnumbered decliners 938 to 818 despite the indexes’ drops, while 78 issues were unchanged. Volume fell to 1,021 million shares from Wednesday’s 1,047 million shares.

Selling of firms that went ex-dividend was also strong, stamping cigarette maker JT by 5.87%, cosmetics maker Kao by 2.83% and imaging devices maker Canon by 2.29%.

Shipping firms sank, with Kawasaki Kisen down 3.52 pct.

Insurer MS&AD dropped 3.12 pct and peer Dai-Ichi Life 2.22 pct.

Clothing retailer Fast Retailing and tech investor SoftBank Group, both major Nikkei components, lost 2.97 pct and 1.63 pct, respectively.

By contrast, the video game sector fared well after Chinese authorities resumed granting publishing licenses to foreign games. Koei Tecmo jumped 6.61 pct and Nexon 4.38 pct.

Mitsui Fudosan rebounded by 2.09 pct, amid the popularity of realtors.

Other major winners included cybermall operator Rakuten and drugmaker Eisai.