TOKYO, June 19 (Reuters) - Japanese shares struggled for direction on Friday as investors remained cautious after the country lifted its domestic travel curbs that were imposed to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nikkei share average rose 0.14% to 22,386.41 by the midday break on Friday, while the broader Topix dipped 0.34% to 1,577.66, with almost a third of 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange trading higher.
Japan, having eased its pandemic lockdown in May, stepped up its recovery from the coronavirus on Friday by lifting travel restrictions across prefectures.
“I would like people, while observing social distancing, to go out on sightseeing trips. We would like you to make an effort to engage in social and economic activity,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.
However, concerns of fresh coronavirus cases in other parts of the world overshadowed recovery hopes. In addition to increasing number of infections in multiple states across the United States, around 400 workers at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
On the Nikkei index, there were 58 advancers against 163 decliners.
Airline and other transportation sectors led gains on the country’s move to lift travel restrictions. Airline index gained 1.82%, advancing the most on the main bourse, with Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc rising 2.26% and 1.49%, respectively.
Land transport sector edged 0.61% higher.
Semi-conductor shares were also strong, after the United States economic data showed that factory activity rebounded in the mid-Atlantic region, with Advantest up 2.71% and Screen Holdings Co Ltd eking 0.2% gain.
Elsewhere in the market, electronic products manufacturer Tokyo Electron Limited soared 5.09% after the company forecast an 11% increase in net profit for the current business year through March 2021, reflecting high demand from people working remotely. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Anil D’Silva)