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Asia closes lower, following Wall Street losses after US drops mega-bomb

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Markets in Japan, South Korea and China closed lower on Friday, as geopolitical tensions in the region heightened, while other major bourses in Asia remained closed for a public holiday.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 91.21 points, or 0.49 percent, at 18,335.63, while the Topix slid 9.24 points, or 0.63 percent, to 1,459.07. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed down 13.73 points, or 0.64 percent, at 2,134.88. Chinese mainland markets were also down — the Shanghai composite finished down 31.47 points, or 0.96 percent, at 3,244.48 and the Shenzhen composite fell 28.01 points, or 1.39 percent, to 1,986.64. Taiwan's Taiex fell 103.75 points, or 1.05 percent, to 9,732.93.

The session in Asia followed a lower finish on Wall Street, after U.S. military forces dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan on Thursday.

This is the first time the GBU-43 bomb, known as the "mother of all bombs," has ever been used in combat, according to Adam Stump, the Pentagon spokesman. The bomb contains 11 tons of explosives and is also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb.

Meanwhile, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea heightened after an official for the reclusive regime on Friday blamed President Donald Trump for escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to The Associated Press.

In an interview with the AP, Vice Minister Han Song Ryol warned the U.S. against provoking North Korea military and said, "We will go to war if they choose."

U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News the U.S. is prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that the country is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. dollar against a basket of currencies, traded at 100.59 at 2:17 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from levels near 100.01 in previous sessions.

"The U.S. dollar took its cue from yields, weaving in and out of negative territory," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note. But, Lien said, geopolitical risks remain front and center, following the bombing in Afghanistan.

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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"President Trump has been flexing his muscles, which makes investors nervous. The situation in North Korea is still uncertain but after Syria and ISIS, North Korea could be Trump's next target," she said.

Among other currency majors, the yen strengthened to 108.92 against the greenback Friday afternoon local time, after weakening to an earlier high of 109.22. The Japanese currency remained stronger than levels above 110.7 reached against the dollar earlier in the week.

Major export stocks in Japan closed mixed, after struggling for gains in early trade. Toyota shares reversed losses of near 0.9 percent to finish up 1.17 percent, Honda was down 0.57 percent, after retracing some of its near 1.4 percent losses, Mitsubishi Electric down 1.54 percent and Sony was off by 0.7 percent.

Shares of Toshiba ended down 5.43 percent, following a report that Apple was considering teaming up with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn for a multi-billion dollar investment in the Japanese conglomerate's semiconductor business.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar fetched $0.7562 and the euro traded at $1.0613.

Oil prices finished modestly in the Thursday session even as U.S. oil rig count rose to its highest level in two years and threatened the re-balancing of markets, according to Reuters. Energy services firm Baker Hughes said drillers added 11 oil rigs in the week to April 13, bringing the total count up to 683, said Reuters.

Global benchmark Brent settled up 3 cents at $55.89 a barrel in the previous session, while U.S. crude was up 7 cents at $53.18.

— CNBC's Rachel Cao contributed to this report.