Asian equities mixed on stronger currencies, earnings

Asian equities traded mixed on Thursday, with Sydney and Tokyo coming under pressure as their local currencies strengthened against the greenback.

The dollar languished at three-month lows against a basket of major currencies in Asian trade after unexpectedly flat retail sales prompted fresh concerns over the state of the U.S. economy and its capacity to withstand rate rises. A rise in U.S. Treasury yields, with the benchmark 10-year note finishing the U.S. session at its highest level in more than 5 months, also forced investors to exercise caution, analysts say.

Wall Street also contributed to the downbeat sentiment by giving up early gains to finish Wednesday narrowly mixed. The tech-heavy Nasdaq settled 0.1 percent higher, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 finished marginally below the flatline.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Mainland markets choppy

China's Shanghai Composite index finished marginally above the previous day's close, as excitement over more government stimulus faded with easing measures already priced in, analyst from China Merchant Securities told Reuters.

Meanwhile, data for April showed money supply grew at its slowest pace on record, while investment growth sank to its lowest in nearly 15 years, adding on to the case of a stubbornly persistent economic slowdown.

Decliners for Thursday include major lenders and developers; Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank traded 0.8 percent lower each, while Poly Real Estate sold down 4.3 percent.

China Railway Group on Wednesday won a $390 million contract to build a Russian high-speed railway, that will become part of the new Silk Road project. But the news didn't seem to have much of a boost effect, with shares of the infrastructure firm slumping 2.6 percent.

Hong Kong shares traded indifferent for most of the session. In focus was Tencent, which bounced up 3.1 percent after announcing a 22 percent rise in first-quarter revenue and 7 percent growth in profits compared to the same period a year ago.

For the stock, HSBC maintains a "buy" rating and raised its target price to 182 Hong Kong dollars from 181 Hong Kong dollars, as analysts expect faster-than-expected growth in advertising to offset slower growth in gaming.

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Nikkei falls 1%

Japan's Nikkei 225 fell to a near one-week low as the yen hovered at the low-end of the 119 handle.

Railway companies plummeted, with Central Japan Railway and Odakyu Electric Railway sinking 4 and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Fast Retailing, owner of clothes brand Uniqlo, retreated 2.5 percent, while other index heavyweights Fanuc and Softbank closed down 1.4 and 1 percent each.

On the corporate news front, Nissan Motor rose 2.4 percent despite announcing a below-view guidance for the current financial year on Wednesday. After announcing a partnership for deeper collaboration on products and technologies, Toyota Motor slipped 0.2 percent, while Mazda Motor jumped 1 percent.

Toshiba edged up 0.8 percent after the company said the mark-down in profits due to accounting irregularities is estimated at a total of around $420 billion over the past three years.

Meanwhile, Sharp is due to unveil details of its new business strategy. According to a report by the Nikkei business daily, Sharp would reduce its capital to 500 million yen ($4.2 million) from over 120 billion yen, instead of a previously planned cut to 100 million yen. Shares of the loss-making Japanese electronics maker pared early gains to move down 1 percent.

ASX slips 0.3%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index closed down on the back of a broad-based selloff sparked by worries over a strengthening Australian dollar. The local dollar charged above the 80 U.S. cents level to trade at $0.8125 in early Asian trade.

Iron ore miners led losses in the resources sector following sluggish Chinese data released in the previous session. Fortescue Metals slumped 8 percent, while BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto tanked 1.6 and 2.2 percent each.

Further weighing on the bourse was an 18.4 percent tumble in medical device maker ResMed, tracking a 15 percent plunge in its U.S. listing overnight, after a trial study in the U.S. concluded that its sleeping device actually increases the death rate of patients.

Meanwhile, GrainCorp retreated 2.5 percent after its half-year profit fell more than 40 percent.

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Kospi adds 0.3%

South Korea's key Kospi index finished at a new one-week high, a day after chalking up its biggest single-day gain in three weeks.

Shinsegae was the main reason for the rally, as the department store giant soared nearly 10 percent after the company's plan to operate a duty-free shop in central Seoul bolstered investor confidence.

However, struggling blue-chips limited the bourse's advances. Steelmaker Posco and Hyundai Motor declined 0.6 and 1.2 percent each, while Samsung Electronics added 0.5 percent.

Amorepacific reported a 72 jump in net profit during the first three months of 2015 as overseas earnings more than doubled, but its shares closed down 0.5 percent.

Rest of Asia

Singapore's Straits Times struggled to find momentum on the back of a lackluster performance among its heavyweight components. Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) moved away from a one-and-a-half-week intra-day high to finish flat on Thursday despite posting a 4.5 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit.

Singapore Airlines sagged 0.3 percent ahead of fourth-quarter earnings due for release later in the day.

In the Philippines, shares drifted 0.3 percent higher to a one-week high before the central bank's interest rate decision, where analysts are expecting no change.

Meanwhile, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is in China for a three-day visit. It is the Indian leader's first visit to the mainland since taking office last year.