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Japanese shares erase early gains as slow vaccination woes weigh on heavyweights

TOKYO, May 17 (Reuters) - Japanese shares erased early gains and edged down on Monday, as worries about slow-paced domestic vaccination rollouts weighed on sentiment, with index heavyweights including Tokyo Electron Ltd leading declines.

The Nikkei share average lost 1.18%% to 27,753.83 by 0235 GMT, after rising as much as 0.8% earlier in the session, while the broader Topix edged down 0.36% to 1,876.62.

“Japanese tech shares could have tracked Nasdaq’s higher today but they didn’t. That means the market has negative reasons that are unique to Japan,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“The biggest reason is slow rollouts of vaccines. That weighs on business sentiment, which prompted investors to sell the Nikkei’s heavyweights.”

Chipmaking equipment maker supplier Tokyo Electron fell 3.68%, becoming the biggest drag on Nikkei.

Other heavyweights also lost ground, with SoftBank Group losing 1.13% and Fast Retailing, operator of Uniqlo clothing stores, down 1.9%.

On Friday, Japan expanded a state of emergency to three more prefectures in a surprise move that reflects growing concern about the spread of the coronavirus.

While medical resources are being pushed to the brink, Japan’s inoculation drive has been the slowest among advanced nations, with just 3% of the population vaccinated, according to Reuters data.

Honda Motor fell 3.22%, as the automaker warned semiconductor shortages and higher raw material costs would curb growth in the current year.

Seven & i Holdings fell 3.89% after U.S. officials raised competitive concerns over the Japanese retailer’s acquisition of 3,900 Speedway gas and convenience stores from Marathon Petroleum Corp.

Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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