TOKYO, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Japanese shares fell on Tuesday, dragged by transport and department stores’ stocks, as worries over surging cases of COVID-19 persisted.
The Nikkei share average slipped 0.21% to 27,730.54 by 0202 GMT, setting the index to close lower on the last trading day of the month for a 12th straight month. The broader Topix was down 0.35% to 1,943.29.
A weak finish on the Dow Jones Industrial Average overnight also weighed on the Nikkei.
“Shares that would benefit from an economic reopening fell as there are still concerns about the pandemic deepening,” said Tomoichiro Kubota, senior market analyst at Matsui Securities.
“For example, we had a news about a new mutation of the Delta variant being found in Japan. We can never fell relaxed about the pandemic.”
A Tokyo-based university found a new mutation of the Delta variant, public broadcaster NHK reported on Monday, adding that further research is needed to determine its infectiousness and impact.
Severe COVID-19 cases are at record levels in Japan, leaving many people to recuperate at home amid a shortage of critical-care beds. Only 44% of its population has been fully vaccinated, lagging inoculation rates of several developed countries.
Airlines and railways dragged the Nikkei the most, with Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings losing 1.89% and 1.99%, respectively.
Odakyu Electric Railway, which runs railway services and department stores, slid 4.08%. Keio and Tobu Railway, which have similar business models as Odakyu, fell 4.39% and 3.54%, respectively.
Other department store chains also fell, with Takashimaya losing 2.59% and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings falling 2.26%.
Shippers and steel makers climbed. Mitsui OSK Lines rose 3.4%, while Nippon Yusen gained 2.68%.
JFE Holdings gained 3.53% and Nippon Steel rose 3.44%. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; editing by Uttaresh.V)