Asia Markets

Asian stocks end mixed on profit-taking, earnings

Asian stocks traded mixed on Friday as investors took profits after the recent run-up and as earnings season gets underway in some parts of the region.

Uncertainty over a "Grexit" is back on the radar as the debt-stricken nation prepares for a meeting with the Eurogroup later in the day, which analysts say won't yield results.

"It is now clear that the chances of Greece reaching a deal to unblock the funds during the coming meeting on 24 April are very slim. This means that Greece is unlikely to receive official funds until at least the next Eurogroup meeting scheduled for 11 May, which given the lack of progress on negotiations so far, also seems unlikely at this stage," IHS analysts wrote in a note.

"This creates significant uncertainty regarding Greece's ability to pay its bills over the coming weeks and months," the note added.

Overnight, U.S. stocks closed near highs, with the tech-heavy adding 0.4 percent at an all-time high, as investors cheered corporate earnings reports. The S&P 500 added 0.2 percent, while the blue-chip closed up 0.1 percent.

ASX jumps 1.5%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index was the top performer for the day, bolstering to a one-week high amid a broad-based rally. For this week, it is up 0.94 percent.

The materials and energy sectors traded on the plus side, on the back of support from firmer iron ore, gold and crude oil prices. Fortescue Metals and BC Iron led gains by jumping 5 percent each. Oil-related counters Santos and Origin Energy finished up 2.6 and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Banks were also buoyant; Australia and New Zealand Banking and Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced more than 1 percent each.

"[The ASX] is up on the back of further gains in oil and iron ore prices and presumably hopes that any further stimulus initiatives by Chinese authorities going forward will place a floor under the country's economic growth dynamics," Patersons Securities wrote in a note. China is Australia's largest trade partner.

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Mainland indices lower

The possibility of more initial public offerings (IPOs) dampened China's Shanghai Composite on the final trading day of the week. Towards the end of the afternoon session, the Shanghai bourse trimmed losses from 1.6 percent to eventually finish Friday 0.5 percent lower.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the mainland's top economic planner said that China will do more to bolster its cooling economy as policymakers still have room to increase policy support. However, the statement did not seem to have much of a positive boost for markets.

Banking and property heavyweights were among the top losers; China Vanke and Poly Real Estate receded 2.3 and 4 percent, respectively, while Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China closed down nearly 3 percent each.

Securities firms like Citic Securities and China Merchants Securities sold off 4 percent each seemingly on the back of speculation that China's securities regulator could raise taxes on local stock investors.

Outperforming the bourse was state carrier China Eastern Airlines, which surged the daily maximum allowable of 10 percent, following the announcement of a private share sale.

After dropping as much as 236 points earlier in the day, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index clawed back losses to end up 0.5 percent.

Shares of HSBC elevated 3.5 percent ahead of its annual general meeting at 1800 SIN/HK in London.

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Nikkei drops 0.8%

Japan's Nikkei 225 index broke a three-day winning streak as profit-taking kicked in after the bourse charged up to 15-year highs for the second straight session yesterday. Despite the negative finish, the Tokyo bourse still managed to rise 1.9 percent for the week.

Airlines were among the hardest-hit on Friday; Japan Airlines plunged 2.9 percent, while ANA Holdings eased 0.7 percent as oil prices headed north overnight. Large-cap Japan Tobacco lost 1 percent after outperforming the bourse for the past few sessions.

Carmaker Honda, which is in the news for unveiling its first business jet on Thursday, notched up 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, brokerage houses like Nomura Holdings continued to attract buy orders, closing up 1.4 percent after rising 9.54 percent this week.

Kospi down 0.6%

After climbing to the day's high of 2,189 - a near four-year peak - shortly after the opening bell, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index erased gains to settle in negative terrain amid a mixed-bag of corporate results. For the week, the Seoul bourse added 0.8 percent.

The country's top builder Samsung C&T tanked 3.6 percent on the back of a 25.9 percent plunge in first-quarter earnings.

Kia Motors firmed up 2.4 percent after delivering better-than-expected first-quarter results. Its bigger affiliate Hyundai Motor shrugged off a 2.2 percent drop in first-quarter net profit to bounce up 1.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice upheld a 210 million euros ($224.8 million) fine imposed on LG Display for participating in a cartel of LCD panel makers between 2001 and 2006. Shares of LG Display fell 2.2 percent, paring early-session gains.

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Rest of Asia

News that Nasdaq hit record highs overnight set the mood for Taiwan's Taiex index, which closed up 1.2 percent to 9,913 - its highest level since June 2000.

According to Reuters, once the main index settles above 9,912 points, the next major target will be 10,000 - a level untouched since 15 years ago.

Suppliers of Apple's latest smartwatch were closely watched as sales began worldwide today. Quanta Computer and Kinsus Interconnect Technology closed down 0.4 and 0.6 percent, respectively, while Zhen Ding Technology Holding rose 3.2 percent.

India's S&P BSE Sensex index shed 0.5 percent in early trade, ahead of the release of quarterly earnings from Infosys. Shares of the nation's second-largest software exporter sagged 0.5 percent.