May 7, 2020 / 3:47 AM / 3 months ago

Tokyo shares edge lower after long holiday; airlines top losers

SYDNEY, May 7 (Reuters) - Japanese stock markets eased on their return from a long holiday on Thursday, with airlines leading the fall on Tokyo's main bourse, as investors fretted over dire U.S. economic data and souring Sino-U.S. relations over the coronavirus.

The benchmark Nikkei average slipped 0.16% to 19,587.42 by the midday break, while the broader Topix dipped 0.45% to 1,424.83.

Nearly two-thirds of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange traded lower, with air transport shedding 6.1% to become the worst performer on the main board. Japan Airlines dropped 6.3%, while rival ANA Holdings lost 6%.

The sell-off came after U.S. peers plunged earlier this week on news that American business tycoon and investor Warren Buffett had sold his entire airline positions.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc sold its entire stakes in the four largest U.S. airlines in April, Chairman Buffett said on Saturday at the company's annual meeting, saying "the world has changed" for the aviation industry.

Also weighing on sentiment were poor ADP private payroll data from the United States and the renewed tension between the world's two largest economies.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is weighing punitive actions against China over its early handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak as economic damage mounts.

Nikkei heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp fell 3.2% after WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann filed a lawsuit against the Japanese tech conglomerate and its Vision Fund for terminating a $3 billion tender offer to the office-sharing startup's shareholders.

Canon Inc declined 2.7% after the company said President Masaya Maeda had retired for health reasons and Chairman Fujio Mitarai would concurrently serve as president and chief operation officer.

Bucking the overall market, the index of Mothers start-up shares jumped 5.8% to its highest level since Feb. 20.

Elsewhere, Nomura Real Estate Holdings soared 8.2% after the company posted a 6.6% increase in net profit for the business year ended in March.

"I expect this two-day week to be rather quiet ahead of the U.S. non-farm payrolls release (due on Friday) and a huge earnings week next week," said Takeo Kamai, head of executions services at CLSA in Tokyo. (Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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