Asian stocks were largely positive on Friday, amid gains in Japan’s Nikkei 225 which led the index to its highest intraday level in almost 27 years.
The Nikkei 225 closed higher by 1.36 percent at 24,120.04, with most sectors advancing. In the morning, the index saw its highest intraday levels since November 1991.
The moves in Japanese markets came after the release of data that showed the country’s unemployment rate fell 0.1 percent from the previous month to 2.4 percent. The country also saw an increase in its month-on-month industrial output in August, while retail sales in August was higher as compared to a year earlier.
In the Bank of Japan’s release of its summary of opinions for its meeting earlier in September, the central bank said “the contrast between the favorable U.S. economy and other economies is becoming more evident, mainly reflecting U.S. trade policy, and uncertainties regarding their outlook have been heightening as well.”
South Korea’s Kospi index slumped by 0.52 percent to close at 2,343.07, with shares of Korea Aerospace Industries plunging by 29.8 percent, following the company’s failed bid to build the U.S. Air Force’s next training aircraft.
In the the Greater China region, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost its earlier gains to trade at 27,721.79 at 3:30 pm HK/SIN. Over on the mainland, the Shanghai composite climbed higher by 1.06 percent to close at around 2,821.35 while the Shenzhen composite closed higher by 0.835 percent to end the trading week at about 1,441.54.
The Caixin Purchasing Managers’ Index for China’s manufacturing sector for September is scheduled to be released on Sunday.
According to estimates by Reuters, it is expected to come in at 50.5 points for September — below 50.6 points in August. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that signals contraction.
Down Under, the ASX 200 rose by 0.43 percent to close at 6,207.6.
Australian financial sector in spotlight
On Friday, Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry released its interim report.
The financial sector has been rocked by months of revelations of wrongdoing stemming from the Royal Commission, driving down share prices and bringing down the reputations of some of the country’s biggest companies.
In attempting to answer the question of how such poor conduct could have happened, the commission said “the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty.”
“The interim report and the Royal Commission’s hearings to date make clear that some financial institutions have fallen far short of treating Australians honestly and fairly,” Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a media release.
Shares of Australian banks largely ended the day higher, with NAB rising by 1.76 percent while Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose by 1.9 percent. Macquarie Group, however, slipped by 1.34 percent.
In currency news, the U.S. dollar index which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers was higher once again at 95.042 as of 3:03 p.m. HK/SIN, following its overnight rally on the back of economic policy uncertainty in Italy.
“Throughout most of the overnight trading session, there were growing doubts Italy’s coalition government would manage to timely agree on a 2019 budget target,” Elias Haddad, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a morning note.
Commenting on the Italian government’s eventual agreement to set the 2019 budget deficit at 2.4 percent of GDP, Haddad said: “This is a bigger deficit target than the 2% aimed by Italy’s economy minister but well within the 3 percent budget deficit target (in structural terms) imposed by the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact.”
The Japanese yen was largely flat at 113.40 against the greenback after its earlier weakness, while the Australian dollar was slightly stronger at around $0.7210, as of 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN.
Wall Street action overnight
In market action overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite all saw gains.
The moves on Wall Street came after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest decision to raise interest rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday for the third time in 2018. The central bank also removed the word “accommodative” from its statement.
Meanwhile, the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China continue to weigh on market sentiments, with President Donald Trump accusing China on Wednesday of intending to interfere in November’s congressional elections.