January 30, 2020 / 7:08 AM / 24 days ago

Japan stocks fall tracking Taiwan, WHO meeting eyed

TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell on Thursday with a sharp drop in Taiwan shares accelerating the selloff in Tokyo, while investors also kept an eye on a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Nikkei share average ended Thursday down 1.72% at 22,977.75. At one point Japanese stocks touched the lowest level since Nov. 21.

Losses in Japanese shares accelerated after stocks in Taiwan plunged at the open in their first trading session since the Lunar New Year break.

Taiwan shares ended down 5.75%, the biggest decline since October 2018, in what could be a preview of how Chinese shares will react when their financial markets re-open on Feb. 3.

China's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 38 to 170 as of late Wednesday and the number of infected patients increased by more than 1,700 to 7,711.

The WHO's emergency committee will reconvene behind closed doors on Thursday to decide whether the new virus from China, which has spread to more than 15 countries, now constitutes a global emergency.

A Chinese government economist estimated that the outbreak could cut China's first-quarter growth by one point to 5% or lower, while U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said it is "a significant thing which will have some effects on the Chinese economy, at least in the short term".

"We recently had a run-up in IT-related shares and now investors are taking profits," said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities in Tokyo.

"The impact of this virus has not been fully priced in."

In Japan, technology shares led the declines after Screen Holdings Co Ltd fell by its daily limit. The semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker slashed its operating profit forecasts by almost half on Wednesday.

There were 22 advancers on the Nikkei index against 203 decliners.

Screen Holdings fell 19.26%, followed by semiconductor testing equipment maker Advantest Corp, losing 6.44%, and industrial machinery maker IHI Corp, down by 5.59%.

Internet media company CyberAgent Inc gained 15.42% after upbeat earnings. Unitika Ltd which makes materials used in surgical masks and healthcare goods rose 15.59%, while Kansai Electric Power Co rose by 1.32%.

The broader Topix index fell 1.48% to 1,674.77.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's main board was 1.18 billion, compared to the average of 1.1 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Shounak Dasgupta)

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