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Asian stocks mixed as investors eye US jobs data

Asian equities traded mixed on Friday, as investors turned their attention to the release of the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report which will likely determine the timing of a Federal Reserve rate hike.

Meanwhile, mainland stocks surged on hopes that authorities may step in soon with fresh support measures.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended sharply lower, with the Nasdaq Composite down 1.6 percent, as investors weighed declines in oil ahead of Friday's key employment report. Weak report cards from media companies such as Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Disney brought down the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, which closed down 0.7 and 0.8 percent, respectively.

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 indices rise

China's Shanghai Composite index widened gains to finish 2.3 percent higher, spurred by reports that trillions of yuan funds will likely re-enter the equity market from a bunch of China funds.

Close to 300 China funds that oversee more than 1 trillion yuan are sitting on the sidelines with "ammunition" to enter the stock markets at anytime, Reuters reported citing Chinese state media Shanghai Securities News on Friday.

Among the most active stocks in Shanghai, China Shipbuilding Industry climbed 3 percent, while banks such as Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China notched up 0.7 and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the blue-chip CSI300 index tacked on 2 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite charged 3 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index tracked the strength in its mainland peers to rise 0.6 percent. China Railway Signal & Communication Corp. (CRSC) inched up 0.3 percent to trade around 6.320 Hong Kong dollars, up slightly from the HK$6.30 IPO price.

ASX plunges 2.4%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index crashed to its lowest level since July 14 amid a broad-based meltdown.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group plummeted 7.5 percent, as investors reacted to Thursday's news of raising $2.2 billion through a share placement. Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank extended sharp losses into a second straight session, slumping more than 3 percent each, as investors anticipated they will be required to do the same.

Gold producers also tumbled, with Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining losing more than 2 percent each, as gold remained on track to stretch its weekly losses to a seventh week.

Rio Tinto also succumbed to the selling pressure, ending down 0.5 percent. The stock notched up modestly earlier in the session, tracking a modest rise of 0.2 percent in its London-listed shares after announcing a 43 percent slide in first-half underlying profit to $2.9 billion, beating consensus of $2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) softened its economic outlook for 2016, according to its 72-page quarterly report.

Nikkei adds 0.3%

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up on the back of hefty buy orders for the likes of SoftBank, paring earlier losses.

The telecommunications and internet giant rallied 3.6 percent after announcing a near $1 billion share buyback and a higher quarterly profit as loss-making Sprint fared better than expected.

Sumitomo Osaka Cement Co. got a boost from strong quarterly earnings, up 2.3 percent, while Nikon climbed 4.7 percent after the camera and imaging firm raised its operating profit guidance for the financial year ending March 2016.

Among losers, Olympus, Konica Minolta and Rakuten fell between 2.1 and 8.5 percent, following weak quarterly report cards. Takata Corp ended up 0.6 percent on the back of news that the air bag manufacturer, who is caught in the middle of global recall, swung to a net profit in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) kept its massive monetary stimulus program steady at the end of its monthly two-day policy meeting, and maintained its upbeat assessment of the economy on Friday. The decision was largely in line with expectations thus markets showed little reaction following the announcement.

Kospi sheds 0.2%

South Korea's Kospi index nursed modest losses in rangebound trade.

Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries tumbled 5.3 and 4.7 percent, respectively, after the former said it received 670 million won worth of stock buyback requests from shareholders who opposed the all-stock takeover offer. The amount was well short of 1.5 trillion won - set by both firms in May as the level at which they would scrap the deal.

Affiliates of family-ruled conglomerate Lotte Group remain in focus amid crises such as a government investigation into allegations of bribery and tax evasion, as well as a family feud that has raised concerns of a leadership vacuum. Lotte Chemical lost nearly 1 percent, while Lotte Insurance changed course to advance 0.8 percent. Lotte Shopping closed up 0.7 percent ahead of its second-quarter report card due after the market close.

The heaviest-weighted stock Samsung Electronics moved up 1.9 percent thus helping to limit the index's losses.

Meanwhile, markets in Singapore are closed for an extended weekend through Monday, as the Southeast Asian city-state gears up to celebrate its 50th year of independence.