Japan stocks slip on vaccine worries, profit-taking ahead of earnings

TOKYO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Japanese shares fell on Tuesday, as worries about delays in distributing coronavirus vaccines and as jitters before earnings season triggered profit-taking in stocks that are sensitive to the economic cycle.

The Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.65% to 28,635.54 by 0136 GMT, with consumer cyclicals, energy and materials makers leading the decline. The broader Topix fell 0.52% to 1,852.34.

The United States has struggled to ramp up vaccinations, European countries are facing delays from suppliers, and Japan is yet to start vaccinations, which is weighing on investor sentiment.

In addition, Merck & Co Inc has ended development of its COVID-19 vaccines, raising additional concern about a lack of supply.

Japanese shares jumped to a 30-year high last week, but a busy earnings calendar in the United States and Japan this week, as well as a Federal Reserve meeting ending Wednesday, is prompting investors to take profits.

“There are renewed concerns that the coronavirus will be with us longer than anticipated, which explains the decline in cyclical stocks and gains in defensive shares,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Several Bank of Japan policymakers called for more flexible purchases of exchange-traded funds, which may emerge as another negative factor for equities when the central bank reviews its policies in March, according to some analysts.

Top underperformers on the Topix 30 were Daikin Industries Ltd, down 2.38%, followed by Toyota Motor Corp losing 2.07%.

Top gainers were Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, up 1.99%, followed by Nidec Corp rising 1.96.

There were 57 advancers on the Nikkei index against 162 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.4 billion, compared to the average of 1.12 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Rashmi Aich)