Nikkei Surges to 4.5-Year High; Rest of Asia Falls
Japan's Nikkei index ended off session highs on Friday after surging past the 13,000 mark as investors cheered the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) monetary onslaught of $1.4 trillion in stimulus. However, the rest of Asia's stock markets tumbled to multi-month lows on caution ahead of U.S. payrolls data.
The yen came off its earlier three-and-a-half year low of 96.9 per dollar to strengthen 0.9 percent while yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds rose 0.615 percent after sinking to an earlier record low of 0.315 percent.
While some experts hail the BOJ's bold stimulus program as a new chapter for Tokyo risk assets, billionaire investor George Soros expressed his skepticism.
"What Japan is doing is actually quite dangerous because they are doing it after 25 years of just simply accumulating deficits and not getting the economy going," he said. "If the yen starts to fall, which it has done, and people in Japan realize that it is liable to continue, and want to put their money abroad, then the fall may become like an avalanche," he added.
Caution over Friday's U.S. payrolls data was a principal factor behind the rest of Asia's bearish tone.The U.S. is expected to have added fewer jobs in March than in February, with economists forecasting a gain of 200,000 jobs in March, according to a Reuters poll.
(Read More: Gartman on Jobs Number: 'Yawn and Move On')
Nikkei Closes Up 1.6%
Tokyo equities moved off a session high of 13,225 points but still ended at its highest levels since 2008.
Real estate stocks were the Nikkei's best performer with Tokyo Tatemono soaring 21 percent, while Tokyu Land rallied 16 percent on hopes of a resurgence in the sector as consumer spending is set to increase.
Analysts say the rally in domestic-focused stocks suggest the stock market, which has recently been driven by a weak yen, is gaining momentum in its own right.
"If you look at the break down of gains today, the real-estate sector is up 14 percent," said Nicholas Smith, Japan Strategist at CLSA in Tokyo. "Real estate, financials, banks and brokers are all asset plays here. What the BOJ is doing is absolutely enormous and dwarfs what the U.S. is doing with its monetary policy," he added.
Kospi Below 1,930
The index hit a four-month low at 1,916 points earlier in the session and pared losses to close just below the 1,930 level, its lowest level since November 30.
The yen's sharp drop weighed on Seoul exporters, overshadowing potential gains from the won's seven-month low and strong earnings guidance from market heavyweight Samsung Electronics.
The South Korean currency fell to 1,131 per dollar as escalating tensions with North Korea continue to weigh on sentiment. South Korea's vice finance minister said early Friday that the government would take swift action to stabilize any long lasting market impact.
Automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motor tanked over 4 percent as a depreciating yen hurts their competitive advantage by making Japanese exports more attractive.
Meanwhile, Samsung shares closed down 0.07 percent despite posting an estimated 53 percent gain in operating profit in the first three months of 2013
Hang Seng Down 2.7%
Fears about a new strain of bird flu in the mainland slammed Hong Kong shares as they resumed trade on Friday at their lowest levels since December.
Airline stocks suffered the brunt of the sell-off with Air China leading losses by 9.8 percent, China Eastern falling 8.3 percent and Cathay Pacific down by 4 percent. The losses come as Chinese tourism gains pace with Reuters reporting that mainland tourists are now the world's biggest-spending travelers.
The market has had a shortened trading week with the stock market shut on Monday for the Easter holidays. Financial markets in China are shut for a public holiday and will resume trade on Monday.
Australia Pares Gains
The benchmark S&P ASX 200 was unable to hold onto opening gains and closed below the 4,900 mark, its lowest levels in two months.
Banks dragged the index down with 1.7 percent declines in Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac after an increase in U.S weekly jobless claims highlighted worries about Friday's employment data.
Resources helped contain the market sell-off with Whitehaven Coal and Sandfire up 2.8 percent, extending Thursday's gains after copper prices bounced back from an eight-month low.