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TOKYO: Tokyo stocks traded lower in early morning trade Monday, with lingering worries over a US rate hike partly offset by potentially positive news on the severity of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 0.81 percent, or 225.69 points, at 27,803.88 in early trade, while the broader Topix index was down 0.53 percent, or 10.28 points, at 1,947.58.

A smaller-than-expected drop in the closely watched US unemployment rate released last Friday "was seen strong enough for an accelerated taper to occur at the (US Federal Reserve's) December meeting," senior analyst Tapas Strickland of National Australia Bank said in a note.

Tokyo shares close lower on Omicron fears

"As we start a new week it is worth highlighting that Omicron headlines were positive."

Early indications of the severity of the Omicron Covid-19 variant are "a bit encouraging", top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said Sunday, while cautioning more information was still needed.

Senior strategist Yoshihiro Ito of Okasan Online Securities concurred investors were "awaiting the Fed meeting" due next week but that they remain worried about Omicron's impact on the economy.

The dollar fetched 112.93 yen in early Asian trade, against 112.80 yen in New York late Friday.

In Tokyo, Toshiba was down 0.42 percent at 4,723 yen after a report said several of its biggest shareholders have accused the firm of failing to properly pursue talks with private equity on a buyout.

The Financial Times report said they will ratchet up pressure on the board to revive discussions on a full buyout and could vote down a plan to break the firm into three separately listed businesses.

Sony Group was down 1.45 percent at 13,625 yen despite a report that its PlayStation division is planning a new subscription service to compete with rival Microsoft's popular Xbox Game Pass.

Some other tech firms were lower with Panasonic sliding 0.20 percent to 1,252 yen, Hitachi trading down 1.30 percent at 6,753 yen and Olympus slipping 0.65 percent to 2,460.5 yen.

Financial companies were also lower, with MUFG trading down 0.87 percent at 617.8 yen and SMFG off 0.52 percent at 3,823 yen.

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