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Nikkei falls from 29-year closing high on virus concerns

TOKYO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average retreated on Wednesday from a more than 29-year closing high notched a day earlier, as soaring COVID-19 cases paused a global equity rally fuelled by vaccine hopes.

The benchmark Nikkei share average dropped 0.76% to 25,817.18 by the midday break. The index, which has gained more than 12% so far this month, posted its highest close since May 14, 1991 on Tuesday.

The broader Topix lost 0.53% to 1,725.50.

Japanese equities also tracked Wall Street lower as surging COVID-19 cases, growing threats of a fresh round of economic lockdowns and weak retail sales data dampened the euphoria caused by potential vaccine breakthroughs.

Tokyo is also preparing to raise its coronavirus alert level to the highest of four levels as new cases in the Japanese capital creep up, the Nikkei business daily reported.

All but three of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange traded lower, with highly cyclical non-ferrous metals , shippers and airlines leading the decline on the main bourse.

Analysts said a sense of short-term overheating on the Nikkei and a stronger yen also prompted investors to book profit.

The dollar eased against the yen to 104.1 in early Asian trade, weighing on export-oriented companies such as Toyota Motor Corp, Sony Corp and Honda Motor , which fell between 1.3% and 3.5%.

SoftBank Group Corp inched down 0.21%, mirroring the Nasdaq’s weak performance overnight.

Separately, the company’s chief executive officer, Masayoshi Son, said at the New York Times-hosted DealBook Online Summit that he was sitting on about $80 billion in cash for investments and share buybacks.

The Mothers Index of start-up firm shares bucked the overall sombre mood, adding 1%. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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