Japan's Nikkei ends higher on economic rebound hopes; Eisai drags Topix

TOKYO, June 10 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei index closed higher on Thursday, as shipping firms rose on prospects of more economic reopenings and drugmakers were boosted by reports of government support.

The Nikkei share average ended 0.34% higher at 28,958.56, while the broader Topix ticked down 0.02% to 1,956.73.

Signs that more economies are reopening amid a steady vaccine rollout underpinned shipping firms, with Nippon Yusen jumping 3.65% to be the biggest gainer on the Nikkei.

Japan plans to finish vaccinating all citizens who have applied for shots by October-November, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a debate between party leaders on Wednesday.

Eisai sank 7.02% after two days of gains by daily limit. U.S. regulators earlier this week approved a drug developed by the firm and Biogen for Alzheimer’s disease. For the week, the stock has gained 30% so far.

Rival drugmaker Shionogi rose 3.4% on a local media report that the firm plans to mass-produce its own COVID-19 vaccines.

Chugai Pharmaceutical gained 1.04% and Ono Pharmaceutical rose 1.5% on a media report they will receive government subsidies for their research on COVID-19 drugs.

The TSE’s air transport index hit a 15-month high before slipping 0.49% as investors locked in profits.

“Some people say their rally on economic reopenings would last only about two weeks. In the past year, that has been the case because we were able to contain the COVID-19 only temporarily,” said Fumio Matsumoto, chief strategist at Okasan Securities.

“But this time, with vaccines, I think their rally could last much longer albeit with twists and turns.”

Meanwhile, DIY shop operator Konan Shoji jumped 20% after City Index Eleventh, a Japanese fund backed by veteran activist investor Yoshiaki Murakami, disclosed that it owns more than 5% of the firm’s shares.

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano and Junko Fujita, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Uttaresh.V