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Tokyo stocks retreat as concerns linger over coronavirus pandemic

This file photo shows the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo stocks retreated Monday on persistent worries about the coronavirus situation in Japan and other parts of Asia.

    The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average ended down 259.64 points, or 0.92 percent, from Friday at 27,824.83. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished 4.56 points, or 0.24 percent, lower at 1,878.86.

    Decliners were led by nonferrous metal, marine transportation and service issues.

    The U.S. dollar stayed in the lower 109 yen range throughout the day, with traders eyeing the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's latest meeting, due out Wednesday, for any hints of a timeline for its monetary stimulus tapering, dealers said.

    At 5 p.m., the dollar fetched 109.24-26 yen compared with 109.30-40 yen in New York and 109.38-39 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Friday.

    The euro was quoted at $1.2135-2136 and 132.57-61 yen against $1.2141-2151 and 132.77-87 yen in New York and $1.2114-2116 and 132.51-55 yen in Tokyo late Friday afternoon.

    The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond fell 0.005 percentage point from Friday's close to 0.075 percent as the safe-haven debt was bought on lower Tokyo stocks.

    Shares were weak from the opening, with growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus pushing the benchmark Nikkei down more than 400 points at one point.

    Tougher measures against the novel coronavirus were introduced Sunday in more Japanese prefectures, fueling concerns about a slowdown over economic activities.

    In Asia, Singapore and Taiwan, which had successfully contained the COVID-19, are now tightening restrictions on crowds in the wake of rising infections.

    "The market was dented by short selling as the virus situation prompted some investors to speculate shares would fall further" as the Bank of Japan refrained from buying exchange-traded funds to support the market despite shares' three-day steep losses last week, Seiichi Suzuki, chief equity market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute

    Online booking for elderly people to receive vaccinations at a state-run large-scale vaccination center in Tokyo started Monday, but market participants are concerned that it may suffer problems similar to those that have plagued online as well as phone bookings for vaccine centers run by local governments, brokers said.

    "Market players are cautiously watching if it will actually work, or any major disruption will happen," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management Co.

    On the First Section, declining issues outnumbered advancers 1,211 to 908, while 73 ended unchanged.

    Nikkei heavyweights were hit amid pandemic concerns, with Tokyo Electron falling 1,710 yen, or 3.7 percent, to 44,700 yen, SoftBank Group shedding 97 yen, or 1.1 percent, to 8,431 yen and Fast Retailing, the operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain, dropping 840 yen, or 1.0 percent, to 86,090 yen.

    Honda Motor lost 89 yen, or 2.7 percent, to 3,238 yen, after the carmaker on Friday forecast a 10.3 percent drop in net profit to 590 billion yen ($5.4 billion) in the current business year through next March amid uncertainty over semiconductor supplies and surging material costs.

    Trading volume on the main section fell to 1,164.98 million shares from Friday's 1,266.20 million shares.

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