UPDATE 1-Japan’s Nikkei eases as investors await Jackson Hole symposium

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(Recasts with change in market direction)

TOKYO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei slipped on Thursday as market participants stayed away from making big bets ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole symposium this week, with investor sentiment also weighed down by COVID-19 concerns.

The Nikkei share average fell 0.11% to 27,693.42 after rising 0.37% earlier in the day, while the broader Topix edged down 0.24% to 1,931.08.

“The Nikkei gained earlier because the U.S. market was strong overnight, but there was no market-moving catalyst that could lift the market further,” said Takatoshi Itoshima, a strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

“Investors are also cautious as they await the outcome of the Jackson Hole symposium. Also, they are eyeing the upcoming election of Japan’s ruling party.”

The three major U.S. stock indexes ended modestly higher overnight, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq posting record closing highs.

In Japan, airlines gained 1.94%, the most among the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 33 industry sub-indexes, with Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings rising 2.3% and 1.66%, respectively.

Railways rose 0.75%, with Central Japan Railway , which runs bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka, gaining 0.65%. Tokyo-based East Japan Railway climbed 1.04%.

But their gains were negated by pandemic and political uncertainties. Japan will likely have a general election in October or later if the ruling party holds its leadership race next month as expected, the Sankei newspaper said.

Robot maker Fanuc dragged down the Nikkei the most, falling 1.81, while staffing agency Recruit Holdings lost 1.39% and Sony Group dropped 2.09%.

Toshiba rose 1.18% after a report that Western Digital was in advanced talks for a potential $20 billion stock merger with Japanese semiconductor firm Kioxia Holdings Corp, of which Toshiba owns 40.5%. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; editing by Uttaresh.V and Subhranshu Sahu)

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