Asia Markets

Asian stocks mixed ahead of key data; Nikkei ends at 8-month high


Asian equity markets were mixed on the final trading day of the week, following an uninspiring U.S. lead and as investors avoided making aggressive bets before a key set of Chinese data over the weekend.

"Most of Asia has continued to struggle today, with a degree of caution being exercised ahead of next week's FOMC meeting, a raft of China data and fresh EU sanctions on Russia. It seems the market is growing increasingly hawkish on the Fed," wrote IG's market strategist Stan Shamu in a note.

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Overnight, U.S. stocks recovered from early losses, as geopolitical tensions lingered ahead of key monthly data. Investors kept an eye on the world economy with Thursday's reports that the United States and its European Union allies would increase sanctions against Russia and President Barack Obama's announcement on Wednesday of new plans to fight Islamic State militants.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.1 percent while the S&P 500 reversed losses to close up 0.1 percent. The Nasdaq also turned positive in the close, up 0.1 percent.

Tokyo gains 0.3%

Japan's key Nikkei index closed at an eight-month high on Friday, with exporters leading gains on a weak yen trading at a six-year high of 107 against the greenback. Meanwhile, the Topix index finished the week at a 6-year high.

Softbank surged 2.3 percent while Sony piled on 1 percent on news that it reached an agreement for its planned Web-based TV service with Viacom,

Dentsu was also in the news after an executive said the firm was not interested in acquiring rival Interpublic Group. Shares of the advertising giant lost 0.8 percent.

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Mainland shares mixed

Chinese shares erased early losses to bounce 0.8 percent higher, as central bank data showed that mainland banks made $114.55 billion worth of new loans in August, quickening from the previous month and matching expectations. In Thursday's session, the Shanghai Composite index hit a session high of 2,343, levels not seen since March 2013.

Financials were in focus; Agricultural Bank of China climbed 0.8 percent while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China reversed losses to gain 0.6 percent after the Chinese banking giant was given the green light to open a wholesale branch in the U.K.

Data also showed car sales in the mainland cooling in August but Chinese automakers shrugged off the dismal data to trade higher. Faway Automobile pared gains to tick up 0.1 percent while Saic Motor advanced nearly 3 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.1 percent. Chinese state-backed conglomerate CITIC fell 4 ercent after the city's securities regulators launched legal proceedings against the company.

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Sydney dips 0.3%

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 hit a one-month low, falling for the second straight day, as financials turned south. Westpac and Australia & New Zealand Bank dropped 1 percent each while the National Australia Bank eased 0.5 percent as the latter goes through contingency planning on its U.K. assets' exposure to the Scottish referendum.

Mining majors remain in focus amid softening iron ore prices; Whitehaven Coal plunged 0.8 percent. Fortescue Metals and BHP Billiton outperformed their peers to close up1.8 and 0.8 percent, respectively.

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Seoul rises 0.4%

South Korean shares closed up on Friday, after the Kospi index closed down at a one-month low in the previous session.

Blue-chips lead gains; automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors climbed 3 and 2.6 percent each while Samsung Electronics added 0.8 percent.

Data showing departmental store sales in August growing at the fastest pace since April 2011 elevated stocks of major shopping chains like Lotte Shopping which scaled 1 percent.

The country's central bank held interest rate steady at 2.25 percent on early Friday, a widely expected decision as it assesses the effects of its rate cut in August and the government's recent stimulus measures.