TOKYO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average
dropped on Thursday, as a jump in COVID-19 cases spurred a
sell-off in retailers and other service providers, with
technology stocks also witnessing a slide.
The Nikkei shed 0.96% to 28,489.13 by the close. The
broader Topix fell 0.68%.
Japan recorded a surge in new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday,
with infections reaching four-month highs in the major
metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Osaka as the Omicron variant
spreads. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the
nation "must brace for the rapid spread of infections to
Retail conglomerate Aeon and cinema operator Toho
were among the Nikkei's biggest losers, dropping 5.70%
and 5.50% respectively. Uniqlo store operator Fast Retailing
slumped 1.92%, making it the biggest decliner by index
"Investors are starting to think that economic normalization
will be delayed, and that's weighing on sentiment," said a
market participant at a domestic securities firm.
The tech sector tumbled despite starting the day in positive
territory. Electrical equipment maker YASKAWA lost
6.29%, making it the Nikkei's biggest percentage decliner on the
day. Olympus shed 4.99%.
The Topix precision machinery subindex was the
biggest loser, down 3.63% and hitting its lowest since July. The
subindex attempted a rebound on Wednesday, but that left it with
little headroom for gains this session, said a market
participant at a domestic asset management firm.
The Nikkei's big chipmakers, though, traded higher, with
Advantest jumping 1.58% and Tokyo Electron
rebounding from earlier losses to end 0.35% higher, supported by
record profit at Taiwanese peer TSMC and a rise among U.S.
counterparts overnight, when the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor
Index rose 0.66%.
Subindexes for retailers and services
rounded out the Topix's bottom three, falling 2.30% and 2.16%
At the other end, iron and steel's 3.33% rally
made it the best-performing Topix subindex, amid strong
Pacific Metals posted the Nikkei's biggest
percentage advance, jumping 6.64%, followed by Toho Zinc
, Sumitomo Metal Mining and Nippon Steel
Among other notable winners was Toyota Motor, with
a 2.23% gain.
(Reporting by Tokyo markets team; editing by Uttaresh.V and