Japanese markets reversed all gains made in the morning session as the yen strengthened. The Nikkei 225, which had climbed some two percent to trade above the 23,000 mark in the morning, edged down 0.3 percent in the afternoon. The broader Topix index was off 0.31 percent after touching levels not seen since 1991 earlier in the day.
Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi shed 0.5 percent.
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.55 percent. The materials sub-index climbed, but a number of energy-related names pared some gains made earlier in the week.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.42 percent. Mainland markets, meanwhile, were narrowly mixed: The Shanghai Composite edged down 0.11 percent and the Shenzhen Composite rose 0.13 percent.
U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday even though banks finished the session lower. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.03 percent, or 6.13 points, to close at 23,563.36. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept rates unchanged at 1.75 percent on Thursday as was expected, but its accompanying comments were seen as hawkish by markets.
The Kiwi dollar held onto most gains made after the announcement to trade at $0.6955 at 1:59 p.m. HK/SIN. The currency had spiked as high as $0.6973 in the Wednesday session, compared to levels around the $0.692 handle seen before the announcement.
President Donald Trump’s tour of Asia also remained in the spotlight. Trump addressed the U.S.-China trade deficit during a Thursday speech in Beijing and said he would work on fixing “unfair trade practices.”
Meanwhile, China October consumer prices rose 1.9 percent compared to one year ago, a touch above the 1.8 percent rise forecast in a Reuters poll. Producer prices also topped expectations, increasing 6.9 percent on year compared to the 6.6 percent forecast.
Stateside, off-year elections saw Democrats score victories in Virginia and New Jersey in Tuesday polls. While “there was some chatter about yesterday’s U.S. governor elections … and what they could mean or signal about the viability of some of the U.S. administration’s reforms,” that had little impact on the markets, Martin Whetton, a strategist at ANZ, said in a note.
On the matter of tax reform, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan indicated there would still be growth even with a phased implementation of corporate tax cuts, Reuters said. That followed a Washington Post report on Tuesday that said a one-year delay in the implementation of tax reform measures was being considered.
The dollar eased on Thursday after slipping in the last session. Against the Japanese yen, the greenback traded at 113.57 at 1:59 p.m. HK/SIN after climbing as high as 114.06 earlier in the day. The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six currencies, stood at 94.793.
Commenting on moves in the foreign exchange markets in response to U.S. political developments, Stephen Innes, APAC head of trading at OANDA, said markets were struggling to find a reliable argument to stick to.
“[M]uddling through the political bluster is more of a distraction than a guide,” he added.
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ intends to purchase a stake worth around 40 percent in Indonesia’s Bank Danamon, Nikkei reported. A spokesman from MUFG said the report was not based on any announcements made by the bank. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group stock was off 0.45 percent and shares of Bank Danamon jumped 12.89 percent following the news. A spokesman from MUFG said the report was not based on any announcements made by the bank.
Shares of Japan Display tumbled 10.37 percent. The company on Wednesday posted a loss of 36.6 billion yen ($321 million) for the quarter ending September 30. That was larger than the loss of 4.9 billion yen it reported for the same period one year ago.
Meanwhile, China’s Tencent has taken a 12 percent stake in U.S. social media company Snap. The news came after Snap missed third-quarter revenue expectations on Tuesday. Tencent shares advanced 0.36 percent. Other Hong Kong tech shares also rose: China Literature climbed 2.83 percent, extending gains made after the stock closed up nearly 90 percent on its Wednesday debut.