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Asian equities mostly edged up on Friday, as investors took heart from less volatile share moves in the mainland.
However, gains were limited as the Shanghai Composite index finished in negative territory for the second straight session and on the back of negative factors such as an uninspiring lead from the U.S. overnight, falling commodity prices, and weak data from Japan.
Wall Street ended narrowly mixed on Thursday, as investors digested ho-hum earnings and U.S. second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) that came in slightly below expectations. The blue-chip Dow and the S&P 500 ended near the flatline, while the Nasdaq Composite added 0.3 percent.
In the commodity space, U.S. crude futures slipped for a second session to trade around $48 a barrel in early Asian trad, as mixed economic data from the U.S. overnight weighed on sentiment, although a weaker dollar put a floor under prices. Spot gold hovered near five-and-a-half-year lows early on Friday and is on course for a sixth straight weekly fall.
Shanghai Comp loses 1.1%
China's Shanghai Composite index widened losses in late-afternoon trade, ending down 1.1 percent for the day and 13.4 percent for the month. However, trading was relatively calm compared to the volatility in the previous sessions.
Chinese securities regulator is investigating the impact of automated trading on the market and had restricted 24 stock trading accounts for suspected irregularities, according to Reuters.
Among losers, heavyweight component PetroChina closed down 5.3 percent, while Sinopec lost 2.6 percent. Securities firm also traded on the back foot, with Haitong Securities and Citic Securities sagging 0.5 and 0.4 percent, respectively.
Among China's other indexes, the CSI300 index saw muted moves on Friday to end near the flatline, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite dropped 0.8 percent.
Nikkei adds 0.3%
Japan's Nikkei 225 index eked out marginal gains, as losses in heavyweight components and mixed economic data released before the market open capped advances. For July, the Tokyo bourse outperformed Asian peers with a rise of 1.4 percent.
Japan's core consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.1 percent on-year in June, a tad above the 0.0 percent forecast in a Reuters poll. But household spending unexpectedly fell 2.0 percent on-year in June, sharply underperforming expectations for a 1.7 percent rise from a Reuters poll. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 3.4 percent in June, slightly above the 3.3 percent forecast in a Reuters poll.
Fanuc trimmed losses to end down 0.3 percent, remaining under selling pressure since the company issued a cut in profit forecast on Wednesday. SoftBank slipped 0.2 percent, while Fast Retailing receded nearly 1 percent.
By contrast, shares of Fujifilm Holdings surged 7.9 percent as investors cheered news of a share buyback.
ASX gains 0.5%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index sealed a three-day winning streak to end at a more than one-week high, led by gains in the financial sector. During the month, the Sydney bourse gained 4.4 percent.
Miners and gold producers were among the hardest hit; Evolution Mining and Alacer Gold tanked 4.3 and 6.4 percent, respectively, while Fortescue Metals and BHP Billiton eased 2.1 and 0.2 percent, respectively.
Kospi gains 0.6%
South Korea's Kospi index hurled itself back above the flatline late Friday, recouping most of Thursday's near 1 percent plunge but chalking up a loss of 2.1 percent for the month of July.
Dismal earnings weighed on the bourse earlier in the session. Samsung Electronics plunged 2.5 percent, adding on to a 3.8 percent slump in the previous session as investors dumped shares after the company announced a poor outlook for the third quarter.
Samsung SDI Co. slid 9.3 percent after posting worse-than-expected second-quarter profit and offered a downbeat outlook for the coming quarters.
On the domestic data front, industrial output rose by a seasonally adjusted 2.3 percent in June, data showed on Friday, reversing three straight months of decline and far exceeding expectations.
Rest of Asia
Taiwanese shares cut losses to end up 0.2 percent, recovering from data which showed the economy slowing more sharply than expected in the June quarter. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.64 percent on-year, marking a three-year low and coming in way below Reuters' forecast of 2.67 percent.
Meanwhile in Singapore, Noble Group shares extended losses to sink 12 percent to its lowest level since November 2008, after the Singapore Exchange (SGX) issued a "Trade with Caution" advisory on the company's shares on Thursday.
On the earnings front, Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) beat expectations with a jump to record quarterly profit, but smaller rival United Overseas Bank (UOB) saw income decline to its weakest in seven quarters. Shares of the latter dropped 3 percent, while OCBC erased losses to close higher.
The broader Straits Times index finished lower by 1.45 percent.