Japan shares end lower on vaccine delay, caution ahead of earnings season

TOKYO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Japanese shares closed lower on Tuesday as worries about delays in distributing coronavirus vaccines, delay in U.S. stimulus package and jitters before earnings season triggered profit-taking.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 0.96% at 28,546.18 points, with consumer cyclicals, energy and materials makers leading the decline. The broader Topix fell 0.75% to 1,848.00.

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 2.98%, followed by Toyota Motor Corp losing 2.31%.

Top gainers were Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd up 1.83 %, followed by KDDI Corp rising 1.23%.

There were 80 advancers on the Nikkei index against 157 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.93 billion, compared with the average of 1.12 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Rashmi Aich)