Japanese shares retreat as China virus death toll mounts

TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Japanese shares fell 1% on Thursday, weighed down by the rising death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China and fears over its potential impact on the world’s second-largest economy.

The Nikkei share average was down 0.99% to 23,148.62 by 0150 GMT, after a 0.7% gain in the previous session.

China’s death toll from the new flu-like virus rose by 38 to 170 as of end-Wednesday and the number of infected patients increased by more than 1,700 to 7,711.

Japan and other countries are evacuating their citizens from the central Chinese city Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak that has spread to at least 15 other countries.

A Chinese government economist estimated 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.”

In Japan, technology shares led the declines after Screen Holdings Co Ltd fell by its daily limit.

The maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment slashed its operating profit forecasts by almost half on Wednesday.

There were 37 advancers on the Nikkei index against 183 decliners.

Screen Holdings fell 19.26%, followed by semiconductor testing equipment maker Advantest Corp, losing 5.78%, and industrial machinery maker IHI Corp, down by 4.47%.

The top percentage gainers were online media company CyberAgent Inc, up 16.1%, followed by electronic components maker Omron Corp, which gained 4.67%, and industrial materials maker Unitika Ltd, up by 3.53%.

Japan Display Inc rose 1.41% after the Nikkei newspaper reported Ichigo Asset Management would inject around 100 billion yen into the company,

Responding to the Nikkei report, Japan Display, which has been scrambling to raise cash, said it aimed to finalise the funding deal by the end of the month.

The broader Topix index fell 0.87% to 1,685.19.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.45 billion, compared to the average of 1.1 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)