×

Swiss shock unsettles Asian shares, but Shanghai bucks trend

Shanghai shares outperformed the region on the final trading of the week, as the rest of Asia languished on heightened volatility induced by Switzerland's unexpected decision to remove its currency cap, which compounded jitters over global growth and the rout in commodity markets.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fell for a fifth straight session, with the S&P 500 finishing below 2,000 for the first time in a month. A surprise move by Switzerland's central bank to abandon its three-year-old euro cap on the franc, also added volatility to markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6 percent, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.9 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the biggest loser for the day, shedding 1.5 percent.

Oil prices edged up in early Asian trading on Friday benefiting from positive technical price momentum, but analysts said it was too early for a trend reversal of steep recent price falls as structural oversupply remains in place.

Watching the Swiss Franc

The Swiss Franc soared to its highest level since May 2014 after the central bank abandoned the cap on the currency's value against the euro on Thursday. In Friday's Asian trade, one U.S. dollar bought 0.8777 francs.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) said the cap, introduced in September 2011, was no longer justified. It also cut a key interest rate from -0.25 percent to -0.75 percent, raising the amount investors pay to hold Swiss deposits.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

Mainland indices mixed

China's Shanghai Composite index was the top performer, up 1.2 percent to close at a one-week high, while the blue-chip CSI 300 index - with the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen - clamored up 0.9 percent.

Financials led gains among the active stocks; ICBC, the nation's biggest listed lender, rose 1.2 percent on news that it is planning to sell 1.8 billion worth of asset-backed securities. Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Communication also leapt over 2 and 5 percent each.

Trainmaker CSR rose by the maximum allowable 10 percent on bets that it will win a major Mexican rail project.

But gains may be short-lived, analysts say. "China is enjoying some gains but I suspect this could be short lived and equities there are likely to play catch-up at some point," Stan Shamu, IG market strategist, wrote in a note.

In Hong Kong, the key Hang Seng index retreated 1 percent, with a 3.9 percent fall in Tencent and 0.6 percent loss in HSBC weighing on the bourse. China Overseas Land & Investment tumbled over 2 percent on reports that the Shenzhen city government had frozen one of its developments.

Read MoreWarning: China may trigger fresh rout in commodities

Nikkei skids 1.4%

After bottoming at its lowest level in two and a half months, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index halved losses by the end of Friday as dollar-yen recouped some losses. By late Tuesday, it was trading above 116.7, compared to a one-month low of 115.8 earlier in the session.

Exporter stocks were the hardest-hit on Friday; Electronics firm Sony was the top loser with a nearly 5 percent decline, while Nikon and Nintendo lost 2.3 and 1.3 percent each. Carmaker Suzuki Motor halved losses to 1.8 percent by late Friday.

Steep declines in index heavyweights also dragged the bourse lower; Fast Retailing, owner of clothes brand Uniqlo, pulled back 3.7 percent while mobile carrier Softbank closed down 2.5 percent.

Read MoreBOJ may expand, extend bank loan schemes: sources

ASX loses 0.6%

Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index retreated for the fifth consecutive session, finishing the week at a four-week low of 5,299 points, as the energy sector was once again hit by oil's price slide. Liquefied Natural Gas tanked nearly 3 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy closed down 2.6 and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Financials added to the weakness, with Macquarie Group and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group losing 1 and 0.8 percent, each. Healthcare product maker Ansell, which said its CEO was relocating away from the U.S. to the company's office in Belgium, ended 1.9 percent lower.

There were some bright spots, however. Gold miners got a boost from spot gold trading near its highest level in four months; Endeavor Mining and Newcrest Mining surged 11.8 and 6.8 percent.

Read MoreKorea 'chaebols' under pressure after Hyundai setback

Kospi drops 1.4%

South Korean shares finished at a one-and-a-half-week low, dragged down by declining index heavyweights. Samsung Electronics, the biggest weighted stock on the Kospi index, eased over 1 percent while Hyundai Motor lost 2.3 percent despite a South Korean court ruled that regular bonuses do not count in base wages for most of the carmaker's workers.

LG Electronics erased gains to close 0.2 percent lower, as the gloomy sentiment prevailed positive news that it is supplying battery packs for Google's self-driving cars.

GS Engineering & Construction got a boost after winning a $2.68 billion deal to build a power plant in Venezuela. Shares of the builder outperformed the bourse to notch up 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the won trimmed gains against the U.S. dollar to trade at 1,077 late Friday.