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Nikkei briefly recovers to pre-pandemic levels on COVID-19 treatment hopes

TOKYO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average on Tuesday briefly recovered to levels before the COVID-19 crisis hammered markets early this year, as sentiment was boosted by treatment hopes, but pared back gains after investors booked profits.

The benchmark Nikkei share average rose 1.35% to 23,296.77, after rising as high as 23,431.04, a level unseen since Feb. 21.

There were 207 advancers on the index against 16 decliners.

The broader Topix gained 1.13% to 1,625.23. All but three of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange traded higher, with airlines, textiles and banking being the three top performers.

The rally in early trade was due to “positive headlines about the coronavirus,” said Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

“If economic recovery progresses with developments of the coronavirus vaccines for example, Nikkei could rise to around 24,000 on stock buybacks in the short term,” he added.

All three major indexes on Wall Street closed higher overnight as President Donald Trump hailed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorisation of a COVID-19 treatment that uses blood plasma from recovered patients.

The Trump administration was also considering fast-tracking an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the Financial Times reported.

Providing additional support to risk appetite, Japan’s capital Tokyo reported 95 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the lowest single-day tally since July 8.

Separately, worries over U.S.-China relations eased as the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said top U.S. and Chinese officials saw progress on resolving issues over the Phase 1 trade deal, and both sides were committed to the success of the agreement.

Among top performing sectors, airlines rose 6.03% after U.S.-listed peers jumped overnight. ANA Holdings spiked 7.18%, while Japan Airlines added 4.65%.

Nintendo hit a 12-year high before reversing course to trade 2.25% lower on profit-taking. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Shailesh Kuber)

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