Nikkei closes at 4-month low as coronavirus spreads beyond Asia

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
Nikkei closes at 4-month low as coronavirus spreads beyond Asia
Credit: © Reuters.

* Nikkei posts worst session in 14 months

* About 98% of main board shares in red, highest ratio in 2 years

* Railway operators, beer companies among worst-hit stocks

* Fujifilm gains amid hopes of drug to treat coronavirus

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average fell to a four-month low on Tuesday, as investors reduced their equity holdings on their first trade after a long weekend and as a spike in coronavirus cases beyond mainland China threatened the global economy.

The Nikkei share average .N225 tumbled 3.3% to 22,605.41, its biggest intraday drop in 14 months, and closed at its lowest since late October.

The index showed a catch-up reaction to falls in global stocks on Monday, when Japanese markets were closed for the emperor's birthday celebrations.

The broader Topix .TOPX declined 3.33% to 1,618.26, with 98% of the stocks on the main board in the red, the highest ratio in more than two years.

The coronavirus death toll climbed to seven in Italy on Monday and several Middle East countries were dealing with their first infections, feeding worries it could turn into a pandemic. addition to rising infections, day by day more companies are refraining from events and business trips. That will surely have an impact on upcoming economic indicators," said Seiji Arai, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) Securities.

Railway operators, normally seen as defensive plays, were hit hard after the Japanese government advised citizens and companies against unnecessary large gatherings, prompting the cancellation of many events and trips. Japan Railway 9022.T , which runs bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka, fell 6.3% to its lowest close in nearly four years.

East Japan Railway 9020.T dropped 2.9% to a three-and-a-half-year low, while Keisei Electric Railway 9009.T ended 5.5% weaker.

Beer makers also came under pressure, with Asahi Group Holdings 2502.T , Kirin Holdings 2503.T and Suntory Beverage 2587.T falling between 3.9% and 6.3%.

Advertising firm Dentsu 4324.T plunged 8% to hit a six-and-a-half-year low amid mounting doubts whether the Tokyo Olympics will be held as planned.

Drugmakers, which had relatively done well since the outbreak started in December last year, also succumbed to profit-taking.

Daiichi Sankyo 4568.T dropped 5%, while Astellas Pharma 4503.T lost 4.8% and Takeda Pharmaceutical 4502.T shed 3.8%.

The yen's sharp rebound over the past couple of sessions hit exporters. Shares of Mazda Motor 7261.T fell 6.8%, while Toyota Motor 7203.T ended down 3.4%.

Bucking the sombre mood, Fujifilm Holdings 4901.T jumped 2.8% to hit a record high following a media report that Japan is considering using anti-flu drug Avigan, manufactured by its subsidiary, to treat coronavirus.

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