Asian shares pull back, but dollar climbs on new China bond-buying news

Most major Asian indexes declined on Thursday following the softer lead from Wall Street. Investors in the region also focused on quarterly releases as Japanese corporates kicked off earnings season.

The Nikkei 225 declined 0.43 percent, with major exporters, including automakers and technology names, trading lower: Toyota fell 1.08 percent, Honda lost 2.15 percent and Canon shed 0.42 percent.

Many investors in the region also awaited corporate earnings due later in the day. Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing, the most heavily weighted stock on the Nikkei 225, is due to report earnings for the quarter ending November on Thursday. Shares of the company reversed early gains to trader lower by 0.28 percent.

Convenience store operators Seven & i Holdings and Family Mart UNY Holdings are also set to report on Thursday.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi edged lower by 0.48 percent. Chipmakers, which had weighed on the index in the last session, were mostly lower on Thursday. Samsung Electronics was off by 0.86 percent and SK Hynix shed 0.14 percent.

Automakers and manufacturing names also saw losses. Steelmakers Posco and Hyundai Steel declined 2.01 percent and 1.98 percent, respectively, while Hyundai Motor lost 0.64 percent.

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.56 percent — with most sectors except gold producers edging lower on the day.

The Australian dollar got a boost after data released earlier showed November retail sales rose more than expected. The currency traded at $0.7868 at 11:57 a.m. HK/SIN, which compared to levels around the $0.783 handle seen before the release.

Greater China markets traded mixed in the early going. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.18 percent, snapping a 12-day win streak. Despite the move lower, the Hang Seng Index, the region’s top-performing major last year, continued to hold above the 31,000 level.

Mainland markets were slightly lower, with the Shanghai composite edging down 0.15 percent and the Shenzhen composite off by 0.1 percent.

A report that China could potentially slow or halt its purchases following recommendation from officials in Beijing could be inaccurate, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a source in the Chinese government. The original headlines, reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday, saw U.S. indexes close lower and the dollar tumble in the last session.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.07 percent, or 16.67, to end at 25,369.13 and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite closed lower for the first time in 2018.

The latest news saw the dollar pare some overnight losses. The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of currencies, traded at 92.402 at 11:53 a.m. HK/SIN, off levels around the 92.3 handle seen before the news. The dollar index had traded as low as 91.922 after the Bloomberg report.

Against the yen, the dollar edged higher to fetch 111.67.

The dollar was on the back foot against the Japanese currency following news earlier this week that the Bank of Japan had slightly reduced its purchases of Japanese government bonds. The greenback had traded around the 113 handle at the beginning of the week.

Meanwhile, bitcoin tumbled 9 percent after South Korea said it was readying a bill that would ban trade of the digital currency in the country. Bitcoin traded at $13,450.74 at 12:10 p.m. HK/SIN, according to industry site CoinDesk.

Also of note, Hyundai Motor announced in a statement that it would be partnering with Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Grab to develop “future mobility services” in the fast-growing region. The sum of the investment was not disclosed by the companies. Source: CNBC

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