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TOKYO: Japanese shares ended lower on Thursday, weighed down by worries about the economic impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant and a hawkish tilt by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Nikkei average settled 0.65% lower at 27,753.37, after falling as much as 1.04% earlier in the session.

The broader Topix shed 0.54% to 1,926.37 but hovered above Wednesday’s three-month intraday low of 1,914.93.

Investors fretted over economic damages from the Omicron coronavirus variant, with the United States becoming the latest country to report a case.

“The market is reacting a bit emotionally to... Omicron. Yesterday, U.S. stocks fell when the market heard about just one person getting it in the U.S., as if that is more important than 534,000 people getting jobs according to the ADP report,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“But at current market levels, long-only investors are ready to buy stocks that have good prospects,” he said.

Another headwind was after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that policymakers would discuss an earlier end to the central bank’s stimulus.

Airline shares got a fresh blow after they suspended new reservations for international flights to Japan until the end of December at the government’s request.

Japan Airlines fell 2.47%, while ANA Holdings lost 1.74%.

Train operators sagged, with East Japan Railway losing 3.47% and Keisei Electric Railway falling 1.8%.

Mitsubishi Chemical sank 8.18%, becoming the biggest percentage loser on the Nikkei, after investors gave a cold shoulder to its plan to spin off its petrochemical and carbon operations.

Shippers rose the most among the exchange’s 33 industry sub-indexes, with Kawasaki Kisen surging 11.36%, Mitsui OSK Lines adding 7.58% and Nippon Yusen gaining 5.27%.

Defensive shares such as drugmakers and some growth-oriented stocks also attracted bargain-hunting.

Ono Pharmaceutical rose 2.64%, while Astellas Pharma gained 1.08%.

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