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Asian Shares Log Muted Gains In Cautious Trade

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Asian stocks ended a lackluster session mostly higher on Friday after U.S. stocks recovered from an early plunge to end mixed overnight, helped by hopes the Federal Reserve could pause its interest rate hikes.

Investors looked ahead to a key U.S jobs report, with economists expecting employment to increase by 205,000 jobs in November after an increase of 250,000 jobs in October. The jobless rate is expected to hold at 3.7 percent.

Chinese shares ended flat in thin trading after a sharp drop on Thursday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index finished marginally higher at 2,605.89 after losing 1.7 percent in the previous session, as the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou dealt a blow to hopes of easing of U.S.-China trade tensions. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index eased 0.4 percent to close at 26,063.76.

Japanese shares snapped a three-day losing streak despite a firm yen on lingering trade worries. The Nikkei 225 Index gained 177.06 points or 0.8 percent to finish at 21,678.68, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.6 percent higher at 1,620.45.

Tokyo Electric Power, Suzuki Motor, Fast Retailing, Fujitsu, Dentsu and Nippon Express rallied 3-4 percent, while Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Showa Shell Sekiyu KK and Takeda Pharma lost 3- 5 percent.

Japan Petroleum lost 2.2 percent and Inpex Corp. dropped 1.1 percent as oil extended losses from the previous session after OPEC ended talks in Vienna without a deal on output cuts.

Transport services company Yamato Holdings jumped 3.5 percent after issuing a positive trading update. Kurabo Industries Ltd. also soared 6.7 percent on a Nikkei report that ZOZO Inc. will use threads made by Kurabo for their clothing brand.

On the data front, the average of household spending in Japan fell an annual 0.3 percent in October, a government report showed. That missed expectations for an increase of 1.1 percent following the 1.6 percent decline in September.

Australian stocks rose modestly to snap a three-day losing streak, as banks gained ground amid expectations the country's central bank may consider an interest rate cut next year due to softer economic data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 23.80 points or 0.4 percent to 5,681.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 21.20 points or 0.4 percent at 5,757.90.

The big four banks, known for their stable dividends, rose between 0.2 percent and 1 percent. An overnight slide in base metal prices pulled down miners, with BHP and South32 ending down 0.7 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

IOOF Holdings tanked 35.8 percent after the prudential regulator moved to disqualify five senior employees of the wealth manager for failing to act in their customers' interests.

Origin Energy jumped 3.1 percent after criticizing the government's policies and holding its investor day.

In economic news, Australia's construction sector continued to contract in November, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed with a Performance of Construction Index score of 44.5, down from 46.4 in the previous month.

Seoul stocks fluctuated before closing modestly higher ahead of the all-important U.S. jobs report due later in the day. The benchmark Kospi rose 7.07 points or 0.3 percent to 2,075.76, led by technology stocks such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.

New Zealand shares ended little changed with a positive bias, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fluctuating before closing up 0.1 percent at 8,767.32.

Air New Zealand closed 0.7 percent higher after the airline announced it would work closely with the engineers' unions to reach a reasonable agreement and avoid a strike on December 21st.

U.S. stocks fell overnight as the arrest of a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei rekindled trade worries. However, markets ended well off the day's lows after reports that the Fed might consider easing the pace of rate increases.

Investors also digested a slew of economic reports on private sector employment, initial jobless claims, the trade deficit and service sector activity.

The Dow fell by nearly 800 points to its lowest intraday level in over a month before ending the day down by just 79.40 points or 0.3 percent at 24,947.67.

The S&P 500 edged down 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4 percent.

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