Asian stocks ended mixed in cautious trading on Friday as the U.S.-China rift over Hong Kong clouded the outlook for en economic recovery and investors awaited the U.S. response to China’s passage of a national security law for Hong Kong.
Chinese shares rose after Premier Li Keqiang said the country has room to stimulate the economy. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up 6.13 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,852.35, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 171.29 points, or 0.7 percent, at 22,961.47.
Japanese shares ended lower to snap a four-day winning streak on concerns about worsening U.S.-China tensions over Beijing’s new security law that could dramatically erode the special administrative region’s autonomy. A raft of weak data also dented sentiment.
Japan’s industrial output fell to the lowest level in at least seven years in April and the country’s jobless rate hit its highest level in over two years, while retail sales slumped an annual 13.7 percent in the month, separate reports showed. The core consumer price index rose from the previous -0.1 percent to 0.2 percent.
The Nikkei 225 Index edged down 38.42 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,877.89, while the broader Topix closed 0.9 percent lower at 1,563.67.
Nikon Corp. tumbled 9.1 percent after its full-year net profit plunged 88 percent from last year and the company said it cut 700 jobs in Southeast Asia as part of a restructuring of its digital camera business. Nissan Motor plummeted 10.8 percent after reporting a loss for the full year.
Australian markets fell notably as simmering tensions between the U.S. and China over Hong Kong tempered investor optimism about a re-opening of the world economy.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled 95.40 points, or 1.6 percent, to 5,755.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 85.60 points, or 1.4 percent, at 5,872.20.
Westpac slumped 6.4 percent. The bank said that the chief executive of its institutional bank, Lyn Cobley, is retiring and a search is on for her replacement. The other three big banks fell 3-5 percent on profit taking after four days of strong gains.
Mining heavyweights as well as energy companies finished broadly lower. Gold miners Regis Resources, Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources climbed 4-8 percent as gold prices ticked up amid a deepening U.S.-China rift.
Austal soared 10.2 percent after the shipbuilder raised its earnings and revenue outlook for fiscal 2020, citing continued strong performance across its business.
Private sector credit in Australia was flat month-on-month in April, the Reserve Bank of Australia said in a report – following the 1.1 percent increase in March. On a yearly basis, credit rose 3.6 percent – unchanged from the March reading.
Seoul stocks reversed early losses to finish marginally higher after South Korea’s finance minister pledged to take steps to stabilize the local currency markets. The benchmark Kospi gained 1.06 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,029.60. Chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2.9 percent and internet portal giant Naver plunged 6 percent.
Industrial output in South Korea dropped a seasonally adjusted 6.0 percent sequentially in April, Statistics Korea said. That missed expectations for a decline of 3.2 percent following the 4.6 percent increase in March.
On a yearly basis, industrial production sank 4.5 percent – again missing forecasts for a fall of 2.2 percent after rising 7.1 percent in the previous month.
The total value of retail sales in South Korea was up a seasonally adjusted 5.3 percent month-on-month in April. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 1.5 percent following the 1.0 percent decline in March.
On a yearly basis, retail sales fell 2.2 percent – again beating forecasts for a fall of 5.0 percent following the 8.0 percent drop in the previous month.
New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing slightly higher for the day. The benchmark NZX 50 Index ended up 25.72 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,882.41.
U.S. stocks gave up early gains to end lower overnight after President Donald Trump said he would hold a news conference about China on Friday, with investors speculating he may impose mild new sanctions on visas and Chinese access to the global financial system.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.6 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped half a percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.
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