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Asia Trades Mixed, Nikkei Continues Losing Streak

Asian markets painted a mixed picture Friday, with exporters moving higher on a stronger U.S. dollar while record high oil prices weighed on oil distributors and airliners. Trade was cautious with U.S. markets closed for the Independence Day holiday.

The dollar rallied after payroll data suggested the U.S. job market and economy are not as dire as many investors had feared. Relief that the June payroll data was not as weak as some had feared also buoyed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a day after the blue-chip average entered bear territory.

Crude oil steadied above $145 a barrel as the United States, the world's largest consumer, heads into the Independence Day long weekend, pausing after the previous day's rally to a record near $146.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average fell 0.2 percent to set its longest losing streak in more than half a century, dragged down by property stocks such as Sumitomo Realty & Development on credit fears.

Seoul shares shed 1.7 percent, continuing their downward run for a seventh straight session with oil's gains overnight and persistent worries about inflation dampening sentiment towards equities. Shares in Hynix Semiconductor tumbled after gaining 5.5 percent Thursday, hit by continued worries about the memory chip market
outlook after a U.S. brokerage said the world No.2 memory chip maker's second quarter earnings would remain weak.

Australian shares added 1.7 percent, lifted by gains in heavyweight mining and banking firms, as five straight sessions of losses prompted investors for hunt for bargains. Despite the rise, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell almost 3 percent on the week to log its seventh straight weekly decline, its longest losing streak since July 2002.

Hong Kong shares closed 0.9 percent higher, led by strong gains in Chinese banks after industry leader Industrial & Commercial Bank of China issued a positive earnings estimate. The world's largest lender by market capitalization said on Thursday its first half profit grew at least 50 percent, based on Chinese accounting standards.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 0.4 percent, with big caps such as NOL and SIA leading the way.

China's Shanghai Composite Index closed 1.2 percent lower as metals stocks declined following big gains in the previous session. But shares of ICBC, the country's largest bank, rose after reporting first-half net profit grew more than half to $6 billion.

Taiwan stocks fell 2.2 percent on Friday, hurt by financials such as Chinatrust Financial amid expectations of slower earnings growth. Tourism shares fell back after jumping earlier, lifted by the start of direct charter flights between China and the island. Hotel operator Leofoo Development jumped as much as 1.2 percent on prospects of an influx of visitors to Taiwan.