Asian shares mostly regained their footing on Friday, following the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) decision to stand pat on monetary policy and as China's abolition of its one-child policy bolstered dairy and baby products makers.
Nikkei up 0.8%
Japan's Nikkei 225 index settled at a two-month high amid choppy trade, following the BOJ's decision to not expand its massive stimulus program despite cooling inflation in the world's third-biggest economy.
The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices, dipped 0.1 percent in September from the year-ago period, official data showed, worse than expectations for a 0.2 percent annual gain.
Household spending for September fell 0.4 percent on-year, against Reuters' estimate for a 1.2. percent rise. Meanwhile, the jobless rate for September was unchanged from the previous month at 3.4 percent, in line with expectations.
Meanwhile, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday that the government is planning a supplementary budget of over 3 trillion yen to build nursing-care facilities and lend support to farmers who may be affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.
On the corporate earnings front, Sony rebounded 0.4 percent after swinging to a second-quarter operating profit on the back of strong PlayStation 4 video game sales.
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal gained 0.6 percent despite lowering its profit forecast for the year through March 2016 and cut its production target for the October-March period. Rival JFE Holdings closed up 2.4 percent, paring early losses, after cutting its guidance and production forecast.
Baby bottle maker Pigeon jumped 10.7 percent, while toiletry goods maker Kao and personal care goods maker Unicharm rose more than 3 percent each, thanks to Beijing's easing of family planning restrictions. By contrast, Japan's dominant condom maker Okamoto Industries slid 10.1 percent on fears that the new ruling may dent Chinese demand for its products.
Shionogi & Co leaped as high as 15 percent to its highest since August 20, following a Nikkei report that the company is expected to release first one-day treatment for influenza in Japan as early as 2018.
China markets mixed
Share markets in China turned mixed in late-day trading, with the key Shanghai Composite index giving up early gains to end down 0.1 percent.
Financials were in focus amid earnings releases. The country's biggest brokerage Citic Securities climbed 3.7 percent after delivering a rise of 54 percent in third-quarter earnings.
Bank of China, which announced a profit fall in the third quarter, slipped 0.3 percent. China Construction Bank - the mainland's second-biggest lender by assets - finished little moved after reporting flat profit growth for the third quarter as bad debt rose.
Among other indexes, both the blue-chip CSI300 and the Shenzhen Composite ended marginally above the flatline, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index headed down 0.5 percent.
China Huarong Asset Management gained 0.3 percent to trade at HK$3.100 in its stock market debut, versus its IPO price of HK$3.09, after raising $2.3 billion in the city's largest initial public offering (IPO) in 2015.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed baby goods-related counters. Skin care products maker China Child Care Corporation soared 36 percent, while infant formula milk maker Yashili International Holdings rose 7.2 percent. Baby stroller maker Goodbaby International Holdings and dairy products maker China Mengniu Dairy Company surged more than 4 percent each, while diaper maker Hengan International Group leaped 2.1 percent.
"The end of the one-child policy is good for the community and related industries, such as baby strollers and milk formula companies. There's not much surprise though, as there has been speculation in the market hence the surge is likely only in the short-term," Dickie Wong, executive director of Kingston Securities, told CNBC on Friday.
ASX sags 0.5%
Shares of the investment bank outperformed, up 2 percent, after unveiling a record first-half net profit.
Rail and ports group Asciano rose 8.5 percent following news that rival logistics firm Qube Holdings clinched a near 20 percent stake seeking to block a $6.5 billion bid from Canada's Brookfield Asset Management. Shares of Qube climbed 4.1 percent.
Also bucking the downtrend, Oil Search surged 4.4 percent.
By contrast, Australia and New Zealand Banking slid 3.4 percent as brokerages slashed their target prices for the lender which posted on Thursday its weakest annual profit growth since the global financial crisis. Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank dropped between 0.6 and 1.7 percent.
Bega Cheese and Blackmores diverged following news of a joint-venture deal to produce infant formula. Shares of the former bounced up 1.8 percent, while the latter slumped 4.5 percent on profit-taking after surging almost 30 percent in the prior trading session.
IG's market strategist Evan Lucas expects both firms to benefit from the end of China's one-child policy. "Bega Cheese and Blackmores could not have timed their strategic joint venture announcement better if they tried. The expected boom in babies in China in the next 18 months will almost perfectly coincide with the launch," the Melbourne-based analyst wrote in a note released early Friday.
Kospi slips 0.2%
South Korea's Kospi index ended a listless session slightly lower.
Among the hardest-hit, Samsung SDI tumbled 4.1 percent following news that it is spinning off its chemicals business and selling off its stake to Lotte Chemical. Shares of the latter skidded 13.8 percent.
LG Electronics lost 7.4 percent after announcing a 37 percent on-year drop in its third-quarter operating earnings.
Fortunately, the bourse's top two weighted stocks helped to offset losses. Samsung Electronics charged up 3.6 percent, a day after rising 1.3 percent on the back of its first year-on-year profit in two years. Hyundai Motor recouped losses to close up 1.6 percent.
On the domestic data front, industrial production rose by a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent in September from the previous month, official data showed on Friday, gaining for a second month and far outperforming market expectations for a 0.4 percent increase.
Taiex eases 0.2%
Taiwan's weighted index closed down in late-day trading, after advance estimate of third-quarter GDP showed Taiwan's economy contracting 1.01 percent from a year ago, worse than the 0.6 percent decline forecast in a Reuters poll.
The data marked Taiwan's first year-on-year decline in quarterly GDP since the global financial crisis in 2009.
Following the GDP announcement, the government announced a stimulus package that could add T$15.4 billion ($480 million) to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), but analysts were skeptical.
"We believe the stimulus effect from these measures is likely to be small, given the limited headline value of the package. In our view, fourth quarter growth is likely to be bolstered by the stabilization of the Taiex, accompanied by the pre-election government spending," Barclays analysts wrote in a note issued on Friday.
Major U.S. averages finished lower overnight, with the Nasdaq Composite leading declines with a 0.4 percent fall. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked down 0.1 percent, while the S&P 500 ended little changed.