February 7, 2020 / 6:54 AM / 10 days ago

Japan stocks lose steam on profit-taking; SoftBank Group shines

TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Japanese shares ended lower on Friday as investors booked profit after the major indexes posted their biggest one-day gain in more than a year in the previous session following China's decision to halve tariffs on some U.S. imports.

The benchmark Nikkei average ended down 0.2% at 23,827.98.

The index closed 2.4% firmer on Thursday, its most in 13 months after China's decision provided some relief to global financial markets jolted by a fast-spreading coronavirus.

It posted a weekly gain of 2.7%, marking its best week in eight.

Limiting losses in the index were shares of SoftBank Group , which surged 7.1% after media reports that Elliott Management has amassed a nearly $3 billion stake in the Japanese conglomerate and is pushing for changes in its governance and transparency.

The broader Topix slipped 0.2% to 1,733.32, following a 2.1% jump in the previous session, on profit-taking ahead of the weekend.

All but six of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo Stock Exchange were in negative territory, with textiles, air transport and insurance leading the losses.

With the earnings season in full swing in Japan, Olympus Corp shot up 9.9% to an all-time peak after the medical equipment maker posted record operating profit for the April-December period and raised its full-year profit outlook.

Although financial markets have found some comfort from China's stimulus measures and move to cut import tariffs on some U.S. goods, investors remain concerned about the coronavirus outbreak and its broader impact on companies and the economy.

The virus outbreak dragged down production at more global businesses on Thursday and the death toll jumped by 73 to 636, with more than 31,000 confirmed infections in China, the world's second-largest economy.

Toyota Motor Corp dipped 0.7% as the automaker said production at all of its China plants would remain suspended through Feb. 16, joining a growing number of automakers facing stoppages due to supply chain issues.

Honda Motor Co declined 2.7% after the carmaker said it will keep operations at its vehicle plants in Wuhan, China, suspended through Feb. 13, as previously planned.

Nintendo dropped 1% after the gaming company said delays to production and shipping of its Switch console and Joy-Con controllers due to the coronavirus epidemic are "unavoidable".

Elsewhere, Takara Bio Inc jumped 11.1% following a Nikkei report that the company is set to produce 50 times more of a coronavirus testing reagent at its plant in Dalian in response to an urgent request from the Chinese city. (Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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