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Asian stocks mostly lower despite China PMI beat as tech shares sell off

  • Investors digested economic data out of Japan and better-than-expected official PMI data out of China.
  • Tech stocks in South Korea and Japan sold off, following the fall in tech stocks stateside overnight.
  • The dollar traded at a fourteen-month low against the euro overnight on expectations of other central banks turning hawkish.

Most Asian markets closed lower on Friday despite China manufacturing activity beating expectations, as select tech shares around the region sold off.

Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 0.92 percent or 186.87 points to close at 20,033.43 after trading below the 20,000 level earlier in the session.

The Kospi slipped 0.16 percent or 3.87 points to end at 2,391.79 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 pulled back 1.66 percent or 96.606 points to finish at 5,721.494.

Markets in greater China traded lower as President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the Hong Kong handover. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 0.7 percent. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite finished higher by 0.09 percent or 3.0015 points at 3,191.064 and the Shenzhen Composite ended up 0.286 percent or 5.4174 points at 1,897.6866.

Indonesian markets remained closed today.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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In economic news, China's manufacturing activity accelerated more than expected in June, suggesting the world's second-largest economy continued to confound expectations for a slowdown. The official manufacturing PMI rose to 51.7, compared with the 51.0 forecast in a Reuters poll.

The Australian dollar, which is sensitive to Chinese economic data, climbed for a third straight session to trade at $0.7672 at 3:45 p.m. HK/SIN, trading as high as $0.7712 following the news. The rise in the Aussie also comes on the back of a rally in iron ore prices, which have increased for three straight sessions.

The yuan strengthened against the dollar for the fourth consecutive session and is set for its best week since 2005, Reuters said. The on-shore yuan traded at 6.7805 to the dollar at 4:00 p.m. HK/SIN. In the offshore market, the yuan traded at 6.7790 to the dollar.

The People's Bank of China had set the yuan midpoint at 6.7744 per dollar before the market open. Reuters reported that this was its strongest level since Nov. 7, 2016.

Japan core CPI for the month of May rose 0.4 percent on year, in line with expectations. May industrial production figures reflected a fall of 3.3 percent, compared with the previous month, Reuters reported.

Tech stocks in South Korea were mixed following the fall in big name technology companies on Wall Street overnight. Samsung Electronics closed down by 0.83 percent and SK Hynix fell 1.61 percent.

In Japan, Nintendo lost 2.84 percent and Yahoo Japan was off 1.41 percent, while in Taiwan, Hon Hai shed 1.68 percent.

India's new goods and services tax (GST) was set to take effect on July 1. While the GST is expected to boost the government's coffers, it has faced its fair share of criticism.

Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, told CNBC that businesses are expected to face pain in the short-term as they have to deal with the complex "multi-layering of taxes." While the tax system has been simplified across states, the government will have to adapt to a consumption-based, rather than production-based, tax system, Varathan added.

In other currency news, the dollar hit a fourteen-month low against the euro overnight. The common currency edged down from a session high of $1.1445 to fetch $1.1407 at 3:47 p.m. HK/SIN.

The dollar's weakness stems from market anticipation that other central banks, such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Canada, could be turning hawkish, which would diminish any yield advantage the dollar might receive from the U.S. Federal Reserve's hiking cycle.

"International markets continued to adjust for a 2018 outlook where other central banks join the Fed in gradually reducing monetary stimulus," CMC Markets Chief Market Analyst Ric Spooner said in a Friday morning note.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, inched higher from nine-month lows to trade at 95.711, compared with the 97 handle seen earlier in the week.

Bond yields rose slightly, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield last trading close to 2.29 percent. The 10-year yield had traded around 2.15 percent earlier this week.

"Yield curves pushed higher and steeper again overnight, with the U.K. and German markets leading the move," said ANZ Economist Daniel Gradwell in a Friday morning note. The moves came after consumer inflation in Germany for June came in above expectations.

Oil prices posted moderate gains. Brent crude added 0.7 percent to trade at $47.75 a barrel and U.S. crude rose 0.76 percent to trade at $45.27.

In the U.S., equities closed lower after a fall in technology stocks canceled out gains from financial names.

— Reuters and CNBC's Leslie Shaffer contributed to this report.