Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index closed marginally lower on Thursday, as hopes for the impact of a massive Japanese economic package were offset by worries over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Nikkei 225 index lost 0.04 percent, or 7.47 points, to 19,345.77, with brokers attributing its lower open to investors cashing in after gains in four straight sessions.
The broader Topix index slipped 0.60 percent, or 8.49 points, at 1,416.98.
"Japanese stock trade is in a state of tug-of-war between the impact of the state of emergency (declared this week) and expectations for the effects of the economic package," said Okasan Online Securities chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito.
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda on Thursday renewed his pledge to carry out "additional monetary easing without any delay if it's needed" as the central bank downgraded its assessment of all of Japan's regional economies.
"Downward pressure is expected to remain strong for now as uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus are expected to last for a long time," Shinichi Yamamoto, a broker at Okasan Securities in Tokyo, told AFP.
The dollar fetched 108.93 yen in Asian afternoon trade, against 108.90 yen in New York.
Fujifilm dropped 7.08 percent to 5,326 yen on profit-taking after rallies in recent sessions, despite formally announcing the start of its phase two clinical trial of its anti-flu drug Avigan for coronavirus patients in the US.
- Uniqlo forecasts downgraded -
Uniqlo casual wear operator Fast Retailing was up 1.14 percent at 46,950 yen.
Shortly after the closing bell, the firm said it downgraded its sales and profit forecast for the fiscal year to August due to virus concerns.
It now expects annual net profit of 100 billion yen ($918 million), down from an earlier projection for 165 billion yen.
It projected annual operating profit of 145 million yen, down sharply from 245 million yen. Sales were also expected to fall sharply to 2.09 trillion yen from an earlier projection of 2.34 trillion yen.
Domestic Uniqlo sales in March dropped 27.8 percent, chief operating officer Takeshi Okazaki told reporters.
The virus also drove down sales and profits in China and South Korea, while a warm winter further pressured sales in Japan and the United States.
Chairman and chief executive Tadashi Yanai said the virus was a call for the global community to come together to foster sustainable growth and not to be selfish for short-term gains.
"I think the novel coronavirus is the biggest crisis facing mankind since World War II," he said.
Convenience store and supermarket operator Seven and i Holdings was down 2.00 percent at 3,473 yen.
The firm also said after the market closure that its annual profit rose but declined to announce its full-year forecast as the virus impact remains uncertain.