Asian stocks close mixed; China lags broader gains amid trade tensions

Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday, with Australia climbing while other major markets in the region turned in more measured performances as investors focused on trade headlines and upcoming economic events.

The Nikkei 225 edged higher by 0.56 percent, or 125.88 points, to close at a session high of 22,712.75. Gains were seen in most sectors, but the securities brokerages sector dropped 3.31 percent, with Nomura falling 5.79 percent after it reported net profit in the quarter ending in June fell to 5.2 billion yen ($46.8 million), compared to 56.9 billion yen one year ago.

The Bank of Japan’s meeting next week is expected to be a focus point for investors.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.26 percent to finish at 2,294.99. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 recorded more convincing gains of 0.89 percent to close at their highest levels in a decade, according to Reuters calculations. The index finished the day at 6,300.20, with the day’s gains led by the energy subindex.

Markets in China, however, lagged gains seen in the region, with the Shanghai Composite closing lower by 0.3 percent at 2,873.59 and the Shenzhen Composite pulling back by 0.66 percent by the end of the day. The blue-chip CSI 300 ended down by 0.42 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was directionless, trading flat at 3:23 p.m. HK/SIN.

MSCI’s index of shares in Asia Pacific outside of Japan pared slight losses seen in the morning to climb by 0.43 percent in Asia afternoon trade.

“Share markets mostly pushed higher over the last week helped by good U.S. earnings news and a U.S.-European trade agreement,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital, said in a note. Although it remained “too early to break out the champagne” over U.S.-European Union trade discussions, “it shows that [U.S. President Donald] Trump is not anti-trade per se,” Oliver added.

U.S. President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged Wednesday to “resolve” steel and retaliatory tariffs currently in place, which was seen as a positive development by markets after elevated trade tensions spooked investors, but analysts have also highlighted the lack of detail in those negotiations as a point of concern.

A lack of certainty on progress was also likely to remain when it came to U.S.-China trade relations: “After ‘wins’ in relation to North Korea and Europe, Trump will no doubt see vindication of his ‘maximum pressure’ negotiating stance– which will embolden him to continue with his tough trade stance on China,” Oliver said.

Trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies had not yet been restarted, according to Chinese Commerce Ministry Spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday.

U.S. stocks were mixed overnight, with technology taking a beating after Facebook reported a miss in second-quarter revenue after the market close on Wednesday. Shares of the social media giant dropped 18.96 percent, suffering their worst day ever, on the back of those results.

The decline in tech saw the Nasdaq Composite recording its worst day in around a month, falling 1.01 percent to 7,852.19, although other U.S. indexes were steadier.

On the trade front, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that the U.S. was making progress on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and hoped to secure a deal in the near future.

Meanwhile, the euro inched slightly higher after its overnight stumble when the European Central Bank kept its policy unchanged. The euro traded at $1.1647 at 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN after slipping some 0.7 percent in the previous session.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of peers, was mostly steady at 94.704 as investors awaited the Friday release of second-quarter U.S. GDP due during U.S. hours.

In individual movers, shares of BHP were up 2.26 percent in Australia after the company announced it will be selling its its U.S. assets for $10.8 billion. BHP said it was expecting a charge of around $2.8 billion post-tax in financial year 2018.

Elsewhere, Singapore Airlines dropped 5.28 percent by 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN after the company reported net profit came in at 140 million Singapore dollars ($102.8 million) for the quarter just ended, below the S$337.9 million figure one year ago.

Source: CNBC