June 24, 2020 / 7:27 AM / 13 days ago

Japanese shares fall as domestic COVID-19 cases at 1-1/2-month high

TOKYO, June 24 (Reuters) - Japanese shares ended weaker on Wednesday as investor sentiment turned negative in response to Tokyo’s highest daily COVID-19 cases in more than a month.

The benchmark Nikkei average closed 0.07% lower at 22,534.32, with 59 advancers against 163 decliners.

Earlier in the session, Tokyo markets tracked overnight gains in Wall Street as improving economic data and the prospect of more stimulus bolstered hopes of a swift recovery.

The pace of contraction in the U.S. manufacturing and services sectors eased in June with reopening of businesses. While new home sales jumped 16.6% in May, blowing past estimates of a 2.9% rise.

However, an increase in Tokyo’s coronavirus infections on Wednesday lifted the risk-averse sentiment.

The 55 fresh cases marked the highest tally since May 5, according to public broadcaster NHK. Tokyo has said restrictions could be reimposed if new cases went up to 50 or more.

Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo, said pandemic-related worries could weigh down markets in the short term.

“People who are sensitive to coronavirus will probably refrain from going outside, in which case would damage restaurant and service businesses,” Ishiguro said.

The broader Topix fell 0.42% to 1,580.50, with all but five of Tokyo’s 33 subindexes trading in the red.

Shippers and textiles were the worst performers among the Tokyo’s 33 subindexes, falling 2.61% and 1.66%, respectively.

Start-up market Mothers Index advanced 0.86%, as three new initial public offerings were announced for the first time in two-and-a-half months.

Elsewhere, SoftBank Group Corp dropped 1.84% after the company said it will sell up to 198.3 million T-Mobile US Inc shares.

Investors also maintained a cautious stance ahead of the International Monetary Fund updated report on World Economic Outlook scheduled later in the day. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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