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Asia markets mixed despite US gains; oil advances

Hitoshi Yamada | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Asia markets closed mixed on Thursday, despite a stronger finish in the U.S. that followed a rise in oil prices and the release of dovish Federal Reserve meeting minutes.

Australia's ASX 200 closed up 0.58 percent, or 30.371 points, at 5,227.92, boosted by gains in the energy, materials and the heavily-weighted financials sub-indexes.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 ended down 0.67 percent, or 102.75 points, at 15,276.24, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up some 1.07 percent, or 20.96 points, at 1,974.08. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index closed up 1.03 percent, or 211.63 points, at 20,706.92.

Chinese mainland markets were both flat, with the Shanghai composite closed effectively unchanged at 3,016.932 and the Shenzhen composite at 2,015.147.

Major indexes in the region had sold off in the previous session on global growth concerns that saw a flight to safety.

"Calmer heads seem to have prevailed in the U.S. and we are once again seeing a situation where the U.S. economy is seemingly looking OK, while the U.K. and Europe are showing increasing signs of fragility," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at brokerage firm IG, said in a Thursday morning note.

Major U.S. indexes finished higher. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 78 points, or 0.44 percent, at 17,918.62, the S&P 500 closed up 11.18 points, or 0.54 percent, at 2,099.73, and the Nasdaq composite was up 36.26 points, or 0.75 percent, at 4,859.16.

Stateside, data showed the pace of growth in the country's service sector increased in June by the fastest pace in seven months.

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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"If we went off this report alone, then the Federal Reserve would be putting rates up today, but that is clearly not the case with the May trade balance and dovish (yet largely redundant) set of FOMC minutes keeping the growth bulls in check," said Weston.

The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in May. Minutes from the Fed's June meeting, meanwhile, suggested policymakers were cautious about raising rates.

Oil prices advanced, with global benchmark Brent up 0.49 percent to $48.89 a barrel after closing at $48.80 overnight. U.S. crude futures added 0.3 percent to $47.57 after finishing at $47.43.

Gold, a safe-haven asset, also advanced, with spot gold up 0.21 percent to $1,366.40 an ounce.

Shares of Samsung Electronics closed 2.04 percent higher, after the smartphone maker said its second-quarter operating profit likely rose 17.4 percent on-year to around $7 billion, beating expectations, according to Reuters.

It was reported to be its highest in more than 2 years as Galaxy S7 smartphone sales propelled mobile earnings, said Reuters.

Asian markets sold off on Wednesday as investors scurried into safe-haven plays on global growth concerns that sent bond yields to record lowers. Worries were spurred by poor U.S. factory orders data, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's Monday remarks suggesting China may not maintain its 6.7 percent growth rate, and renewed fears over the fallout from the Brexit vote.

In the currency market, the dollar traded at 96.025 against a basket of currencies, coming off levels near 96.290 it traded at on Wednesday afternoon Asia time.

The Japanese yen, a safe-haven currency, traded at 100.73 against the greenback, strengthening from an earlier session low of 101.40, and compared to levels near 103 on Friday. Analysts said the fresh strength in the yen was due to a flight to safety amid jitters across financial markets.

The British pound traded at $1.2979 as of 1:19 p.m. HK/SIN on Thursday. The pound dropped to a fresh 31-year low of $1.2796 on Wednesday amid persistent uncertainty surrounding the U.K.'s future as a result of its decision to leave the European Union.

Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said the further drop in the sterling was due to "nothing more than thin liquidity conditions."

"Ultimately sterling is headed lower as bad news worsens," Lien added. "Brexit puts significant stress on the financial sector and property funds are the first to feel the pain. Other sectors will start to implode, edging the U.K. economy and British pound lower."

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7502 after dropping as low as $0.7464 earlier in the session. The Aussie was under pressure after S&P Global Ratings lowered its outlook on the country's debt to negative.

S&P cited a combination of the government's budget deficits and the likelihood of a political stalemate as the country awaits the outcome of what is likely to be a very close election as the reasons behind its decision.

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