Asia markets mostly up; Mexican peso strengthens after conclusion of US Presidential debate

Asian markets were mostly higher in the afternoon and the Mexican peso strengthened against the dollar on Thursday following the conclusion of the final U.S. Presidential debate.

The Mexican peso, which has been closely watched in the election cycle as a barometer of the markets' perceived likely outcome, strengthened to as high as 18.44 against the greenback from levels near 18.51 before the start of the debate. Earlier this week, the currency pair traded over 19.00.

"The Mexican Peso recovered its losses against the dollar and this is traders showing their decision that [Republican nominee Donald] Trump has yet lost another debate," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a note. Trump's rhetoric has at times taken a hard line on trade and immigration from the U.S.'s southern neighbor.

As of 2:35 p.m. HK/SIN, however, the currency retreated near levels before the debate, trading at 18.52.

U.S. Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debated on a range of topics from Russian involvement in election hacks to immigration and the appointment of Supreme Court justices in a session moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Aside from the debate, it was a relatively data-light session in the region, though employment numbers in Australia came in lower than expected.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that in September, the total number of jobs decreased by 9,800, widely missing a Reuters poll that predicted an increase of 15,000 jobs, as full-time employment fell by 53,000 jobs, while part-time employment rose. At the same time, the unemployment rate also fell by 0.1 percentage-point on-month to 5.6 percent and the labor-force participation rate dropped.

"The net effect of all these factors has been a slight increase in the implied probability of a November rate cut to 19 percent, as priced in the swaps market," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at spreadbettor IG, in a note.

"Personally, I don't think this employment report will push the Reserve Bank of Australia to think more seriously about further rate cuts, but there's no doubt it's a poor number," Weston said, adding things could get interesting if the third-quarter inflation report due next week turned out weak.

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The Australian dollar dropped from a session high of $0.7734 to as low as $0.7652 after the report. As of 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN, the Aussie traded at $0.7662.

The benchmark ASX 200 closed a touch higher, advancing 6.73 points, or 0.12 percent, to 5,442.10, with the energy sector up 1.13 percent and the materials sector higher by 0.82 percent.

Other Asian markets also finished up. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 climbed 236.59 points, or 1.39 percent, to 17,235.50, while the Topix index gained 13.60 points, or 1 percent, to 1,370.80.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi finished flat at 2,040.60.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 0.28 percent in late-afternoon trade. Chinese mainland shares ended mixed, with the Shanghai composite flat at 3,084.75 and the Shenzhen composite closed up 6.60 points, or 0.32 percent, at 2,060.38.

Investors in Australia assessed key resource producers for their quarterly production numbers.

Global miner Rio Tinto announced before the market open that it lowered its 2016 guidance for iron ore shipments to between 325 million and 330 million tons, compared with an earlier guidance of around 330 million tons, citing a reduction in shipments due to port and rail maintenance.

Its third quarter 2016 shipment of iron ore came in 80.9 million tons, which was down 5 percent on-year and down 2 percent on-quarter. Rio Tinto shares, however, closed up 0.43 percent.

Fortescue said it increased its iron ore shipment by 5 percent on-year in the first quarter of fiscal 2017 to 43.8 million tons and maintained full fiscal year guidance at 165 million-170 million tons. The miner also slashed its so-called C1 costs by 20 percent on-year, from $16.90 a ton to $13.55 a ton.

Fortescue shares closed down 1.94 percent.

BHP Billiton, which announced its production numbers on Wednesday, finished up 1.69 percent.

Sattish Bate | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

In Japan, shares of gaming giant Nintendo climbed 3.34 percent to 26,950 yen a share, after the company teased on social media that it would offer a glimpse of its upcoming NX gaming console to the public later in the global day.

Shares of Nikkei index heavyweight Fast Retailing, which owns the clothing chain Uniqlo, closed up 3.74 percent, while SoftBank, which recently announced a tie-up with Saudi Arabia to set up a $100 billion investment fund to invest in the technology sector, gained 1.63 percent.

Sharp shares advanced 7.69 percent. On Thursday morning, the Japanese business daily Nikkei reported, citing sources, that Foxconn, which controls a majority stake in Sharp, was trying to expand into the semiconductor industry by partnering with SoftBank-owned ARM to create a chip design center in Shenzhen.

The Nikkei report added that ARM, Foxconn and SoftBank all declined to comment.

Oil prices pulled back slightly during Asian hours, after advancing in the U.S. session following government data stateside that showed a surprising drawdown in inventory.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed crude stocks fell 5.2 million barrels in the week ended October 14, shattering market expectations for a 2.7-million barrel build, Reuters reported.

Global benchmark Brent was down 0.49 percent at $52.41 as of 2:51 p.m. HK/SIN, after climbing 1.9 percent overnight. U.S. crudefutures fell 0.66 percent to $51.26 a barrel, following a 2.6 percent gain in the U.S. session. The front-month November contract for U.S. crude is set to expire following Thursday's session.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.68 points, or 0.22 percent, to 18,202.62; the S&P 500 index advanced 4.69 points, or 0.22 percent, to end at 2,144.29, while the Nasdaq rose 2.58 points, or 0.05 percent, to 5,246.41. Among companies reporting earnings, Morgan Stanley, Abbott Labs and BB&T beat their earnings per share and revenue expectations.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released its latest iteration of the so-called Beige Book, which summarizes economic conditions in the country. In it, the Fed said economic activity in the U.S. rose at a modest pace in most regions.

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