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Basic Materials

Nikkei inches higher; worries over PM Abe's health weigh

TOKYO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Japanese shares ended higher on Monday, taking cues from gains in e-mini futures and Asian peers, but rising speculations around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s health weighed on sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei share average rose 0.28% to close at 22,985.51, while the broader Topix gained 0.19% to 1,607.13.

Creating tailwinds to the market, e-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.41%, while Hong Kong stocks rose 1.48%.

Trade volume was subdued as many market participants were absent due to the summer lull.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.78 billion.

Investors were wary after Japanese Prime Minister Abe entered a Tokyo hospital to receive a follow-up medical examination from last week.

Last week’s medical check-up stoked concerns about Abe’s ability to continue as leader due to health issues and fatigue from handling the COVID-19 crisis.

“I’d like to take care of my health and do my best at my job,” Abe told reporters after his hospital visit.

Abe, already Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassed a half-century-old record set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato for the longest consecutive tenure as premier on Monday, adding to speculation he may resign after reaching the milestone.

Even if Abe were to resign, the impact on Japan’s market would be limited, some analysts say.

“Basically, economic and financial policies won’t change, no matter who succeeds (Abe),” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

“There may be a confusion temporarily, but the impact would probably be limited.”

Investors also await U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s address at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium on Thursday.

The stocks that gained the most among the top 30 core Topix names were Nintendo Co Ltd up 4.79 %, followed by Mitsui & Co Ltd. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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