Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday, pressured by a sell-off on Wall Street overnight and as investors reacted to a batch of economic data from Japan and China. Trading volumes were light on the final trading day of the week as most markets in the region are closed for the Labor Day holiday.
In data released before the market open, Japan's consumer inflation rose 2.2 percent in March, exceeding expectations for a 2.1 percent rise and a tick up from 2.0 percent in February. Meanwhile, household spending likely fell 10.6 percent on-year in March, below market forecasts of 12.1 percent but much higher than the 2.9 percent in February. The jobless rate fell to 3.4 percent, a tick lower than February's 3.5 percent.
China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) held steady at 50.1 in April, while the official services PMI fell to 53.4, from 53.7 in the preceding month.
Overnight, U.S. equities suffered heavy losses, led by a 1.6 percent plunge in the Nasdaq Composite amid weak earnings from tech and biotech plays. With the blue-chip and the S&P 500 index shaving off 1 percent each, all three indexes finished below their 50-day moving averages on Thursday.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rebounded from a four-week intra-day low to close up marginally, with better-than-expected domestic data barely offset the unimpressive cues from Wall Street.
Traders were also keen to reduce their exposure ahead of the extended weekend, according to Reuters. Markets in Japan will be shut through May 6 for the Golden Week holiday.
Out-performers included index heavyweight Japan Tobacco, which leaped 3.6 percent after announcing a plan to buy a U.S. e-cigarette firm. Honda Motor also elevated 1.4 percent, possibly on bargain hunting or short-covering. The stock plummeted 6.7 percent in the previous session, a reaction to Tuesday's news that its profit for the fiscal fourth quarter slumped 43 percent from a year ago.
ASX gains 0.4%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index reversed a lower open to break a three-day losing streak on Friday, as a slightly better-than-expected factory data from the mainland calmed the nerves of investors ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) meeting next week.
A comeback in the banking and mining sectors brought cheer to the Sydney bourse. Westpac led gains with a rise of 0.7 percent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank made gains between 0.1 to 0.5 percent. The four major lenders have been heavily sold off in the past few sessions since a rise in inflation data last week dampened the chances of a rate cut and on the back of pessimistic calls for first-half earnings.
Bargain buyers also emerged in the mining space, leading BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto up nearly 2 percent each. Fortescue Metals surged 9.2 percent following news that Australia's competition watchdog won't pursue the miner over its call to cap iron ore output. Oil-related counters also traded on the plus side; Oil Search and Santos rose over 1 percent rise as U.S. crude oil futures held steady around $59.70 a barrel in Asia's quiet trade.
NZX 50 adds 0.1%
New Zealand shares recouped losses and settled a whisker above the flatline, a day after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) kept interest rates steady as expected.
The New Zealand dollar lost 0.4 percent to trade at $0.7582 against the greenback, extending Thursday's declines sparked by news that the RBNZ is open to cutting rates if the economy slowed and inflation stays too low.