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Japanese shares slip on market outlook caution, Fast Retailing shines

TOKYO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Japan’s benchmark Nikkei share average inched lower on Thursday as investors tuned cautions about the sustainability of a recent rally above the 30,000 level, though sharp gains in Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing limited the decline.

The Nikkei 225 index settled down 0.19% at 30,236.09, reversing earlier gain, while the broader Topix fell 1% to 1,941.91.

Earlier this week, the Nikkei reclaimed the 30,000 level for the first time since 1990 amid growing expectations of an economic rebound.

“Investors want to evaluate whether Nikkei’s rally to the psychologically important 30,000 mark reflects the real market,” said Soichiro Matsumoto, chief investment officer Japan at Credit Suisse Private Banking.

“They are trying to see if the market maintains the momentum toward the end of the fiscal year in March and beyond.”

Apparel maker Fast Retailing jumped 4.58%, making it the biggest contributor to the Nikkei, followed by Chugai Pharmaceutical, which rose 2.17%.

Optimism surrounding the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in Japan boosted ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines, which climbed 0.8% and 0.85%, respectively.

Chip-related shares fell after the Nasdaq closed lower overnight. Japan’s Nidec fell 2.18%, Renesas Electronics slipped 2.51% and Advantest declined 3.67%.

The stocks that lost the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Hitachi, which fell 3.48%, followed by Mizuho Financial Group, losing 2.24%.

The top percentage losers in the Nikkei index were Mazda Motor, down 6.28%, followed by Hino Motors, losing 5.43%, and Screen Holdings, which fell 5.26%.

There were 38 advancers on the Nikkei index against 181 decliners. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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