TOKYO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average edged up on Wednesday, with healthcare leading gains after drugmakers said the existing vaccines were likely to be effective against the new coronavirus variant, while technology shares rose as Apple Inc eyed a shift to electric cars.
The Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.24% to 26,498.78 by 0200 GMT, while the broader Topix fell 0.03% to 1,760.53.
Pharmaceuticals rose 1.02% after drugmakers said they expected the vaccines they have already developed are effective on the new variant that swept through Britain and will conduct tests to confirm this.
Healthcare shares have benefited from the coronavirus outbreak due to increased demand for treatments but the broader impact on the global economy has been very damaging, keeping investors on edge.
“Buying in healthcare and selling of shares that are more sensitive to the economy shows that investors are becoming more defensive,” said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities.
Information and communications stocks rose 0.16% after the Nasdaq closed at a record high overnight due to signs that Apple Inc is moving ahead with the production of electric vehicles.
Top gainers among the top 30 core Topix names were Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd and Kao Corp rising 2.81% and 1.39%, respectively.
However, financials and raw materials companies fell, showing lingering caution.
The top underperformers among the Topix 30 were Honda Motor Co Ltd, down 2.43%, followed by SoftBank Group Corp , losing 1.79%.
Japanese automakers took a hit after a local media report that the government would set a goal of banning new sales of gasoline-powered cars by the mid 2030s.
There were 80 advancers on the Nikkei index against 142 decliners.
The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.44 billion, compared to the average of 1.33 billion in the past 30 days.
(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Rashmi Aich)