Nikkei ekes out gains, within whisker of erasing pandemic loss

TOKYO, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average eked out gains on Friday, but stopped short of a final step towards a complete recovery from its decline triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

The Nikkei rose 0.11% to 23,275.27, briefly hitting a six-month high for two straight sessions but stopped short of closing a major chart gap between 23,378 and 22,950 made in February, when signs of global spread of the COVID-19 shocked investors.

Given risk factors such as uncertainties over U.S. stimulus and intensifying China-U.S. tensions, investors regarded profit-taking more prudent than chasing the rally further.

The broader Topix rose 0.16% to 1,626.76, having risen 8.7% just in the first two weeks of August, supported by hopes of gradual recovery in the global economy and rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The market has been strong even for a bull like me. It has been driven by short-covering by foreign investors,” said Seiichi Suzuki, chief equity market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

The biggest gainer among the top 100 firms was Fujifilm Holdings, which rose 2.8% after the company said it expects data from a clinical trial of its Avigan drug on COVID-19 patients to be ready in about a month.

Dentsu gained 3.4% after the advertising firm managed to eke out small gains, despite analyst forecasts of a quarterly net loss.

Oisix Ra Daichi, one of the stay-at-home stock winners, advanced 12.3% to a record high after local media reported that the food delivery service operator will tie up with restaurant chain Ootoya Holdings.

On the other hand, rise in bond yields this week also prompted investors to take profit from interest rate-sensitive shares, including Softbank, and real estate firms .

Softbank fell 2.3%, while realtor Mitsui Fudosan and Mitsubishi Estate dropped 2.3% and 1.7%, respectively. (Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)