Asian stocks close mixed amid trade and economic worries

Major Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday, following losses seen on Wall Street and amid investor concerns about the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

Japan led losses in Asia: The benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.78 percent, or 176.21 points, to close at 22,516.83, but was off its intraday low. Losses were seen across most sectors, with automaker stocks down 1.43 percent and among the day’s worst-performing sectors.

Early declines in South Korea reversed, with the Kospi finishing up 0.83 percent at 2,357.22.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 edged lower by 0.11 percent to close at 6,225.20 in choppy trade. Heavily weighted financials rose, but those gains were offset by declines in most other sectors. Telecommunications stocks fell as Telstra declined for the third straight day.

Greater China markets were in positive territory. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite rose 0.49 percent to close at 2,889.95.

The smaller Shenzhen composite advanced 1.21 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, meanwhile, edged higher by 0.3 percent by 3:14 p.m. HK/SIN, with stocks in the utilities and services sectors leading broad-based gains on the index before the market close.

MSCI’s broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan firmed through the day, last trading higher by 0.5 percent in afternoon trade.

That came after stocks stateside closed lower in the last session, with trade tensions between Washington and Beijing continuing to weigh on investor sentiment. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.8 percent, or 196.10 points, to close at 24,461.70 and mark the index’s eighth straight day of losses.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday requested $200 billion in Chinese products be identified and potentially subject to an additional 10 percent tariff. China said it would retaliate with countermeasures if the U.S. went ahead with its threats.

For the week, markets in Asia remained under pressure after taking a hit earlier this week on trade-related fears. Even with Friday’s gains, China’s benchmark Shanghai composite finished the week down more than 4 percent after plunging on Tuesday. The Shenzhen composite was down more than 6 percent for the week.

Apart from trade, the backdrop of a deterioration in forward-looking indicators of global growth and a stronger dollar has resulted in a more cautious outlook for equity markets in the region.

Morgan Stanley, for one, has downgraded its targets for a number of Asian stock indexes. Jonathan Garner, chief Asia and emerging market equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that Hong Kong was the market he was most concerned about in terms of near-term price direction.

Garner said he had a 12-month target of 27,200 for the Hang Seng from a previous target of 30,350.

Ahead, all eyes will be on OPEC and its allies as they meet in Vienna later on Friday. Markets are expecting the oil producers to ease production cuts that have been in place since 2017, with Reuters reporting early on Friday that Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the consensus was for output to be increased by one million barrels per day.

Still, other exporters, such as Iran, are understood to be against the slashing of output curbs.

“Saudi Arabia has pretty much laid down the gauntlet: An output increase is needed for the benefit of the consumers … But likely these key players are staking out their positions as they go into a meeting and my bet is there will be a compromise scenario of raising output by probably in the range between 500,000 and 700,000 per day,” Victor Shum, vice president for energy at IHS Markit, told CNBC’s “Street Signs.”

Before the highly watched meeting, Brent crude futures rose 1.27 percent to trade at $73.98 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 1.19 percent to trade at $66.32.

Also of note, the Bank of England on Thursday held rates steady, but the central bank was seen as a touch more hawkish after one more committee member, BOE Chief Economist Andy Haldane, voted for a rate hike.

The British pound on Friday extended its overnight gains, last trading at $1.3284 at 2:56 p.m. HK/SIN after touching a recent seven-month low.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, lost some steam to trade at 94.669. Against the yen, the dollar was steady at at 109.87.

In corporate news, Samsung Securities fell 2.94 percent after South Korea’s financial regulator proposed late on Thursday that some of company’s operations be suspended for six months following a “fat finger” error that took place earlier this year.

Source: CNBC

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