Asia markets mixed; Toshiba shares tumble 17% following reports of semiconductor business sale

Asia markets traded mixed on Thursday, with shares of Japanese electronics maker Toshiba tumbling more than 17 percent after a report suggested it was considering the sale of its semiconductor business.

Toshiba shares slipped 17.27 percent in morning trade, after the Nikkei financial daily reported the company was considering spinning off its semiconductor business and selling a partial stake in the unit to U.S. data storage firm Western Digital.

Toshiba later said in a statement the report from Nikkei was not “based on any announcements” by the company.

Elsewhere, Samsung Group shares pulled back slightly after initially jumping at the South Korean market open, after a court dismissed a warrant to arrest the head of the conglomerate, Jay Y. Lee, amid his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal that saw the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung Electronics traded up 0.5 percent at 10:19 a.m. HK/SIN, retracing some of its earlier 2.5 percent gains; Samsung Electro-Mechanics traded flat, giving up a 1 percent gain in early trade.

While Samsung C&T shares trimmed earlier advances of more than 4 percent to trade up 1.6 percent. Samsung SDI slipped 4.9 percent and Samsung Engineering shares dropped 2.7 percent.

The pullback in Samsung shares likely pushed the broader South Korean market higher, with the Kospi erasing earlier gains of near 0.9 percent to trade down 0.16 percent, and the Kosdaq index traded near flat.

Reuters reported South Korea’s special prosecutor’s office deeply regretted the court ruling, which denied its request to arrest Samsung’s Lee. The office said it would continue its investigation into the graft scandal involving President Park, Reuters said.

In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average climbed 0.9 percent, as export-oriented shares received a boost from a relatively weaker yen. The yen traded at 114.71 against the dollar, weakening from levels below 113.00 briefly touched in the previous session.

Major exporters jumped, with Toyota advancing 1.63 percent, Nissan up 0.17 percent and electronics maker Sharp gaining 6.01 percent.

Takata shares were suspended from trading on Thursday according to the Japan Exchange Group, which operates the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

It followed media reports from Nikkei financial daily that said two potential sponsors for Takata’s rehabilitation plan were asking for court involvement in the process, a move that was supported by automakers that have shouldered the cost of recalling the company’s faulty air bags.

In Australia, the ASX 200 advanced 0.33 percent in afternoon trade, with the materials sector advancing 0.47 percent.

Shares of Bega Cheese jumped 14.06 percent, after the company said Mondelez International would sell most of its grocery business in Australia and New Zealand, including the popular Vegemite food spread brand, to Bega Cheese for $344.68 million.

Chinese mainland shares were mostly flat, with the Shanghai composite down 0.08 percent and the Shenzhen composite slipping 0.2 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index declined 0.35 percent.

Elsewhere, in prepared remarks, Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy was closing in on the central bank’s goals, giving it impetus to start reducing the extreme levels of support it has provided over the past decade.

“Right now our foot is still pressing on the gas pedal, though, as I noted, we have eased back a bit,” said Yellen.

Meanwhile, the Fed also released its latest Beige Book, which said that a pickup in manufacturing, “widespread” reports of labor shortages and improving business investment set the stage for the Fed’s December rate hike.

Remarks from Yellen, stronger U.S. data and a positive Beige book pushed the dollar higher against a basket of currencies, with the greenback traded at 101.32 at 10:30 a.m. HK/SIN on Thursday, up from levels near 100.32 but still lower than levels above 102.40 reached last week.

“Unless Donald Trump attacks the dollar again on Friday, we have seen the end to a month of losses in the greenback,” said Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, in a note.

Among other currency majors, the euro traded at $1.0637 against the dollar, the Australian dollar fetched $0.7513, while Cable was at $1.2277.

Oil prices advanced in Asian trade on Thursday, after declining in the previous session likely on the back of the dollar rebound.

Brent crude added 0.83 percent to $54.37 a barrel, after finishing down 2.79 percent on Wednesday. U.S. crude added 0.78 percent to $51.48 a barrel, after slipping 2.67 percent overnight.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 22.05 points, or 0.11 percent, to close at 19,804.72, while the S&P 500 rose 4 points, or 0.18 percent, to end at 2,271.89 and the Nasdaq rose 16.93 points, or 0.31 percent, to 5,542.

Source: CNBC