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Nikkei marks 1-month closing high on virus drug hopes, autos gain

TOKYO, July 13 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average rose to a one-month closing high on Monday, tracking a rally on Wall Street as a positive analysis on a potential COVID-19 drug offset investor fears over surging virus cases.

The benchmark Nikkei share average settled 2.22% higher at 22,784.74, its highest close since June 10, also helped by gains in auto stocks on upbeat industry data from China. On the index, there were 219 advancers against six decliners.

The broader Topix rose 2.46% to 1,573.02, with all 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange closing higher.

U.S. stocks gained on Friday as Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir showed reduced risk of death in severely ill COVID-19 patients, but the company cautioned rigorous clinical trials were needed to confirm the benefit.

The Nasdaq posted its sixth record closing high in seven days, up 0.66%, while the Dow and the S&P 500 added 1.44% and 1.05%, respectively.

Another tailwind for the Tokyo stock market was a rise in Shanghai stocks, with the tech-heavy start-up index hitting its highest in more than 4-1/2 years on hopes of earnings improvement.

However, investor optimism was somewhat tempered ahead of an announcement on fresh coronavirus cases in Tokyo later in the day.

Highly cyclical mining, iron and steel , and airlines were the three top performers on the main bourse.

Auto stocks shined after data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed the world’s biggest vehicle market expanded by 11.6% in June from a year earlier and registered strong growth for a third consecutive month.

Mazda Motor Corp spiked 8.76%, while Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd gained 6.2% and 5.94%, respectively.

Among losers, Yaskawa Electric Corp edged down 0.36%, despite posting a smaller-than-expected drop in March-May group operating profit. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Subhranshu Sahu)

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