TOKYO, June 17 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks ended lower on Wednesday as automakers dragged following weak export data, while escalating tensions between North Korea and South Korea also doused the market sentiment.
The benchmark Nikkei average closed 0.56% lower to 22,455.76, while the broader Topix lost 0.40% to 1,587.09. The Nikkei had posted its biggest intraday percentage gain in three months in the previous session.
Japan's exports shrank to the lowest levels in a decade as shipments of automobile to the United States slumped. This offset optimism around an overnight rally on Wall Street, where all three major U.S. stocks hit third consecutive daily gains.
Shares of export-oriented automakers underperformed, with Mazda Motor dropping 4.34%, Suzuki Motor down 3.13% and Mitsubishi Motor falling 3.07%.
Investors were also rattled by escalating tensions between North Korea and South Korea after North Korea demolished an inter-Korean liaison office and rejected an offer by South Korea to send special envoys, vowing to send troops back to the border.
On the Nikkei index, there were 32 advancers against 186 decliners.
As concerns about the coronavirus progress resurfaced, highly cyclical airlines went down 2.22% and textiles falling 1.68%
"Worries about a 'second wave' and hopes for a global economic recovery have been playing tug of wars," said Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo.
Bucking the overall weakness, SoftBank Group surged 5.02% after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Japanese technology company plans to sell "a significant portion" of its stake in T-Mobile to controlling shareholder Deutsche Telekom AG.
Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer that sells dexamethasone, gained 4.68% after a preliminary trial results in the United Kingdom showed that this steroid drug reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients.
In the startup market, the Mothers Index climbed 2.13%. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Rashmi Aich)