February 4, 2020 / 2:36 AM / 25 days ago

Nikkei edges up as China markets try to steady after plunge from virus scare

TOKYO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up on Tuesday, erasing early losses as Chinese shares steadied a little after crumbling the previous day, but sentiment remained fragile as investors fretted over the growing economic and human costs of a virus outbreak.

At 0132 GMT the Nikkei index was up a touch by 0.02% at 22,977.64, stepping off from a 10-week low hit in the previous session. Shares in the technology and materials sectors eked out gains.

Chinese stocks rose 1.73% on Tuesday, but that came after a plunge of over 8% the previous day when mainland markets opened for the first time since an extended Lunar New Year holiday, a period in which financial markets were roiled by the rapid spread of the virus.

The total number of virus deaths in China reached 425 as of Monday, from 20,438 cases, and analysts have warned that growth in China and globally is likely to take a hit from the epidemic.

China’s central bank has flooded the economy with cash while trimming some key lending rates, but analysts suspect more will have to be done to offset the economic fallout from the virus.

Investors were seen buying into some of the battered stocks in early trade.

There were 129 advancers on the Nikkei index against 91 decliners.

The largest percentage gainers in the index were electronics conglomerate Panasonic Corp up 8.6%, followed by industrial equipment maker Ebara Corp gaining 8.42%, and electronic parts maker Taiyo Yuden Co Ltd up by 4.84%.

Panasonic got a boost after reporting its first quarterly profit at its U.S. battery venture with electronic car maker Tesla Inc on Monday.

The largest percentage losses in the index were seafood processor Maruha Nichiro Corp down 5.17%, followed by materials company Unitika Ltd losing 4.86%, and drugs maker Shionogi & Co Ltd down by 3.41%.

The broader Topix index rose 0.23% to 1,676.63.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.49 billion, compared with the average of 1.1 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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