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Japan stocks extend fall as lockdown worries return

TOKYO, March 24 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average fell on Wednesday for the fourth consecutive session as renewed concerns about the return of coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and declining oil prices dented hopes of an acceleration in the global economy.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 2.04% at 28,405.52. The broader Topix fell 2.18% to 1,928.58, posting its biggest daily percentage decline since Feb. 26, and its third straight session of decline.

Energy shares led the decline as Germany’s extension of pandemic lockdowns and lingering doubts about the safety of a popular coronavirus vaccine curbed expectations for a rebound in economic growth and demand for oil.

However, some technology shares got a boost from plans to increase investment in the production of cutting-edge semiconductors to ease global supply shortages.

Sentiment for Japanese shares was somewhat cautious as investors are expected to book profit before the fiscal year ends on the last day of this month.

“The decline in oil prices is a direct blow to the energy sector, but you can also see investors are selling shares that until recently were rallying very sharply,” said Takashi Nishizawa, head of investment research at Nomura Securities.

“Investors are starting to realise that their optimism about the outlook was a little excessive.”

The biggest percentage loser in the index was Unitika Ltd , down 9.25%, followed by ANA Holdings Inc, losing 7.21%, and Mazda Motor Corp, falling by 5.92%.

The top percentage gainer in the index was Nikon Corp , which rose 6.44% on speculation it would benefit from U.S. semiconductor maker Intel Corp’s move to greatly expand its advanced chip manufacturing capacity.

Tokyo Electron Ltd rose 5.06% and Screen Holdings Co Ltd climbed 1.66% after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the two companies would collaborate with a Japanese government project that will invest in domestic manufacturing facilities for next-generation chips.

The volume of shares traded on the main board was 1.41 billion, compared to the average of 1.44 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Subhranshu Sahu)

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