Nikkei ends up as China markets get some respite from battering on virus scare

TOKYO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up on Tuesday, erasing early losses as Chinese shares steadied somewhat after crumbling the previous day, but sentiment remained fragile as investors fretted over the growing economic and human costs of a virus outbreak.

The Nikkei index ended up 0.49% at 23,084.59, stepping off from a 10-week low hit in the previous session. Shares in the technology and consumer stables sectors rose.

Chinese stocks rose 2.47% on Tuesday, but that came after a plunge of over 8% the previous day when mainland markets opened for the first time since an extended Lunar New Year holiday, a period in which financial markets were roiled by the rapid spread of the virus.

The total number of virus deaths in China reached 425 as of Monday, from 20,438 cases, and analysts have warned that growth in China and globally is likely to take a hit from the epidemic.

The People’s Bank of China has flooded the economy with cash while trimming some key lending rates, but analysts suspect more will have to be done to offset the economic fallout from the virus.

“We cannot be sure when this will be over, but the PBOC has taken some measures on rates and liquidity that have supported Chinese markets,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co in Tokyo.

“Prior to the virus, the concern was that stocks were overheating. Now some investors are buying the dip, focusing on individual Japanese shares with good earnings and financials.”

Investors were seen buying into some of the battered stocks on the day.

There were 156 advancers on the Nikkei index against 64 decliners.

The largest percentage gainers in the index were electronics conglomerate Panasonic Corp up 10.04%, followed by industrial equipment maker Ebara Corp gaining 9.41%, and soy sauce maker Kikkoman Corp up by 5.81%.

Panasonic got a boost after reporting its first quarterly profit at its U.S. battery venture with electronic car maker Tesla Inc on Monday.

The largest percentage losses in the index were materials company Unitika Ltd down 5.88%, followed by seafood processor Maruha Nichiro Corp losing 4.38%, and investment bank Nomura Holdings Inc down by 2.76%.

The broader Topix index rose 0.69% to 1,684.24.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 1.28 billion, compared with the average of 1.1 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White Editing by Shri Navaratnam)