Asia markets gain for the week as currencies strengthen against the dollar

Asia markets
Asian markets open slightly weak   

Markets in Asia totted up gains for the week despite a tepid session on Friday that saw major indexes waver between positive and negative territory. Asian currencies, including the yuan, strengthened against the dollar.

Japan's Nikkei 225 retraced losses from earlier in the session to close up 54.62 points, or 0.32 percent, at 17,014.78. For the week, the benchmark index gained 5.1 percent as it returned to above the 17,000-level. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi finished down 2.54 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,955.63; the index gained about 1.9 percent for the week.

Chinese markets finished mixed, with the Shanghai composite reversing losses to close up 14.29 points, or 0.5 percent, at 2,874.05; the index was up 3.8 percent for the week. The smaller Shenzhen composite slipped in Friday's session, closing down 51.16 points, or 2.91 percent, at 1,706.96.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 1.18 percent higher. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index added 8.90 points, or 0.18 percent, to 5,090, registering a 4.3 percent overall gain for the week.

Despite the weekly gains, Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, said in an afternoon note that there is an air of fatigue from the bulls in several developed equity markets even as they continue to grind higher.

Weston added, "We have not yet reached the point where the market internals are highly suggestive of contrarian short positions. But the market is in need of some injection of new news to provide an injection of inspiration and cause a new leg higher. It seems unlikely this inspiration comes from today's U.S. payrolls."

Markets are awaiting cues from U.S. non-farm payrolls data due later in the global day.

David de Garis, director and senior economist for fixed income, currencies and commodities at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a note that the non-farm payroll data are likely to be "pretty solid overall with a near 200 [thousand] print in employment expected."

Other important events that could likely provide cues for markets in the coming days include China's National People's Congress (NPC), which begins this weekend, as well as the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan meetings next week.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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On the currency front, several major currencies in the region saw strength against the dollar.

In Japan, the dollar/yen pair moved back to the 113 handle overnight after climbing over 114 Thursday. The pair traded flat at 113.75 on Friday afternoon local time.

Japanese export stocks finished mostly higher after the dollar/yen pair came off a session low of 113.23, with shares of Toyota up 0.83 percent, Nissan higher by 0.92 percent and Honda adding 0.38 percent. A stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted to local currency.

The Chinese yuan also strengthened against the dollar, with the dollar/yuan pair trading down 0.15 percent at 6.5215 as of 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN time. Before market open, the People's Bank of China fixed the yuan mid-point at 6.5284 against the dollar, compared with Thursday's fix at 6.5412.

Down Under, the Australian dollar also gained against the U.S. dollar, with the pair trading up 0.2 percent at 0.7364.

Australian miners were the big winners on Friday, with Rio Tinto finishing up 1.58 percent, Fortescue up 3.75 percent and BHP Billiton gaining 2.43 percent. Gold miners also finished up, with Newcrest adding 0.47 percent and Alacer Gold gaining 1.45 percent.

Gold prices were up overnight, with U.S. gold futures for April delivery up 1.26 percent an ounce at $1,257.60. Spot gold, however, retreated 0.1 percent to $1,262.10 an ounce as of 2:37 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Toru Yamanaka | AFP| Getty Images

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the country's retail sales for January was up 0.3 percent on-month, slightly off a Reuters poll that predicted a 0.4 percent increase. Retailers finished the Friday session mixed, with major supplier Metcash down 5.31 percent, while supermarket chain Woolworths rose 1.07 percent.

Oil prices gained during Asian hours, with U.S. crude futures up 0.72 percent at $34.82 a barrel as of 2:38 p.m. HK/SIN time, after losing steam overnight and falling 0.26 percent. Global benchmark Brent futures were up 0.59 percent at $37.29, after settling up 0.37 percent during U.S. hours.

Energy plays across the region were mostly up, with Santos finishing higher by 5.69 percent, Inpex adding 6.83 percent and Japan Petroleum up 5.53 percent. Woodside Petroleum, however, retreated 0.44 percent.

Mainland Chinese oil plays were mixed, with Sinopec down 3.93 percent and China Petroleum up by 2.86 percent.

Overnight, major indexes in the U.S. closed up; the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.26 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.35 percent and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.09 percent.

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