Nikkei closes up, ASX hits one-month low

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Asian markets traded mostly lower on Friday, despite Wall Street's positive finish overnight, as record low oil prices weighed resources plays and China shares traded in negative territory as another top executive was reported missing by local media.

"Most investors are 'laying low' ahead of the all-important FOMC meeting next Wednesday and Thursday," Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia at private bank Julius Baer, said in a note Friday. At the Federal Reserve meeting next week, policymakers are widely expected to increase interest rates for the first time in nine years.

Japan stays in the green, Kospi slips

Bucking the regional trend, the Nikkei 225 ended in positive territory on the final trading day of the week, closing up 184 points, or 0.97 percent, at 19,230.

Export stocks mostly closed in the green.

Shares in Nissan finished 1.36 percent higher. Its French partner, car maker Renault, will hold a board meeting later in the day to discuss its long-standing conflict with the French government. Earlier in the year, the government raised its stake in the car maker to take advantage of new legislation that allowed for more voting rights to long investors.

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will start his state visit to India. Earlier, the New Delhi government approved a $14.7 billion Japanese proposal to build India's first bullet train line.

Japanese train stocks traded mixed on the back of this news. Shares in Kawasaki Heavy Industries ended up 0.22 percent, Hitachi Transport added 0.35 percent and Nippon Sharyo saw gains of 0.33 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi shaved early gains and closed down 3.45 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,948.

Blue chip shares ended mixed with Samsung Electronics flat at 0.08 percent and Posco down 0.3 percent. Shares in Hyundai Motor were also down 1.98 percent.

ASX fell to a 1-month low

The Australian market fell to a one-month low, with the main ASX 200 index slipping 8 points, or 0.16 percent, to 5,029 at market close. Energy, materials, and industry sectors all weighed on the back of lower commodities and base metal prices.

Major banking stocks closed between down 0.06 percent and up 0.6 percent. According to reports, Westpac said Friday morning at its annual meeting it expects a modest lift in Australia's real rate of growth next year to around 2.75 percent.

Resources stocks mostly traded in the red. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, Australia's biggest miners, closed unchanged and down 1.6 percent, respectively.

Iron ore miners Fortescue and Atlas Iron were up 2.79 percent and unchanged respectively as iron ore prices remained near a decade low. BC Iron shares tanked 24 percent after the miner temporarily suspended production in its Nullagine joint venture due to negative market conditions.

The Australian dollar traded lower at 0.7245 against the U.S. dollar.

Shanghai Composite down, Fosun chief goes missing

The Chinese markets traded lower ahead of another series of economic data due on Saturday, including retail sales, industrial production, and fixed asset investment.

The main Shanghai Composite index closed down 20 points, or 0.58 percent, at 3,435. The smaller Shenzhen Composite was down 16 points, or 0.72 percent, at 2,195. Away from the mainland, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 231 points, or 1.07 percent, at 21,474.

Local media Caixin reported overnight another Chinese executive has gone missing. This time, it's 48-year-old Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International. He is known as "China's Warren Buffet." Caixin said passengers at Shanghai airport saw Guo being taking away by the police as he traveled back from Hong Kong.

The company held an internal meeting to discuss the incident.

Tencent Finance reported Li Haifeng, vice president of Fosun International, said the company does not yet have a clear picture of the exact situation. In August, Xinhua reported Guo granted favors to an executive of a Chinese state-owned company 12 years ago in exchange for unspecified benefits. Meanwhile, all of Guo's posts on his Weibo account was removed on Thursday evening.

Shares in Fosun International and Fosun Pharmaceutical were on a trading halt. Fosun Pharmaceutical's April 2017 bond was down around 1.8 percent, according to Reuters. Five other listed companies under the Fosun Group also suspended trade.

Elsewhere, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) set its official midpoint rate at 6.4358 per dollar, its weakest level since August 2011 and 0.2 percent lower than Thursday's fix. The yuan traded lower at 6.4448 against the dollar.

Shares in Chinese brokerages and banks closed mixed. Citic Securities pared losses to close up 0.22 percent, Founder Securities remained unchanged, and Huatai Securities was up 0.37 percent. Banks were down between 0.16 and 1.21 percent.

Glencore shares in Hong Kong were up 10.9 percent. Overnight, its stock was up 7 percent in London after the Swiss miner said it will further cut its debt and gave an upbeat earnings forecast. Glencore shares have fallen over 70 percent since the beginning of this year.

Asian energy plays trade mixed

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Oil prices remain under pressure due to a global supply glut. For a fourth day, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent futures traded in U.S. hours at their lowest since February 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis, after OPEC announced last week it would not reduce its production quota.

WTI crude futures were down 28 cents, or 0.76 percent, at $36.48 a barrel, while the internationally traded Brent futures were down 29 cents, or 0.73 percent, at $39.44

In its latest monthly report, OPEC predicted the supply of oil from rival countries would contract next year as world oil demand rose. The cartel said for 2016, non-OPEC oil supply was expected to contract by 380,000 barrels a day.

The Baker Hughes drill rig count, which records the number of oil rigs operating in U.S. fields, is expected to be released later today.

Energy stocks across Asia-Pacific traded mixed on Friday. In Australia, Woodside Petroleum, the country's largest oil and gas company, saw gains of 0.37 percent in the afternoon. The company announced it had approved a $2 billion gas development in its North West Shelf project in Western Australia. Earlier this week, the company scrapped its $8 billion takeover bid of rival Oil Search.

Meanwhile, shares in Santos closed down 0.28 percent, while Oil Search ended 1.27 percent lower. In Japan, Inpex ended nearly flat and Japan Petroleum remained unchanged.

Shares in China Petroleum, Petrochina, CNOOC, and Sinopec all ended in the red.

Overnight in the U.S.

The slump in oil, however, did not affect U.S. markets much, as all major indexes closed in the green. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 82 points, or 0.47 percent, at 17,575. The S&P 500 saw a 4.6 point, or 0.23 percent, gain to 2,052, while the Nasdaq finished 22 points, or 0.44 percent, higher at 5,045.

Haze Fan contributed to this report.

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