Japanese shares slump as virus surge stokes slowdown worries

TOKYO, April 20 (Reuters) – Japanese shares fell sharply on Tuesday, weighed down by worries that possible reintroduction of COVID-19 emergency measures in the country’s biggest cities would slow the economic recovery.

Selling was seen across almost all sectors, with only one of the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 33 industry sub-indexes trading higher and just a more than dozen stocks up on the benchmark Nikkei share average.

The Nikkei fell 1.80% to 29,151.00 by 0141 GMT in its worst intraday drop in almost four weeks, while the broader Topix dropped 1.28% to 1,931.41 in its biggest slide in two weeks.

“It’s just like the decline is bringing another sell-off today,” said Shoichi Arisawa, general manager of the investment research department at IwaiCosmo Securities.

“There is a concern about virus resurgence not only in Japan but also in other countries. Investors are becoming cautious about an economic reopening, particularly since many Japanese companies are sensitive to the global economy.”

Tokyo and Osaka may slide back into states of emergency due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Japan this month put these prefectures as well as others under “quasi-states of emergency” but those measures have done little to reverse the trend so far.

Index heavyweights Fast Retailing, known for its Uniqlo clothing brand, fell 1.75%, while SoftBank Group lost 1.2%.

Semiconductor-related stocks tracked their U.S. peers lower, with Tokyo Electron falling 1.88%, Advantest dropping 3.01% and Murata Manufacturing losing 1.32%.

Marui Group was the biggest percentage loser on the Nikkei with a drop of 4.84%, followed by Casio Computer , losing 4.35%, and Hitachi Construction Machinery , down by 4.15%.

The top percentage gainers in the index were CyberAgent Inc , up 1.51%, Shiseido, up 1.02%, and Nippon Yusen, up 0.39%.

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