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Asia markets close mixed; Nikkei down 2 pct for the week

Asia markets closed mixed on Friday, as traders trimmed holdings ahead of the key July non-farm payroll report in the U.S., due later Friday.

Major indexes in Australia and Japan posted weekly losses.

In Australia, the ASX 200 index finished up 21.59 points, or 0.39 percent, at 5,497.40, with the energy and materials sub-indexes advancing 1.19 percent and 1.73 percent, respectively. For the week, the index posted a weekly loss of 1.17 percent.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed flat at 16,254.45, failing to hold onto morning gains, and posting a weekly loss of 2 percent. Earlier this week, Japanese stocks sold off on the back of a stronger yen as investors appeared to have been disappointed with the stimulus measures announced by the government and the central bank in Japan.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 17.91 points, or 0.9 percent, at 2,017.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 1.42 percent.

Chinese mainland markets closed slightly lower, with the Shanghai composite down 5.42 points, or 0.18 percent, at 2,977, and the Shenzhen composite was lower by 7.30 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,941.60.

Overnight, the Bank of England cut rates for the first time in over seven years, slashed growth forecasts and launched a new monetary policy weapon in a bid to stop a post-Brexit economic slump in the U.K.

The BOE said it would create a new Term Funding Scheme worth up to 100 billion pounds ($132 billion) and announced the purchase of up to 10 billion pounds in U.K. corporate bonds. A 60 billion pound hike in the bank's government bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, to 435 billion pounds was also announced.

The pound tumbled from levels above $1.330 to levels below $1.316 after the decision. On Friday afternoon Asia time, the pound traded at $1.3130 as of 2:23 p.m. HK/SIN.

"The most important development overnight is the high expectations for global monetary and fiscal easing are steadily being met," said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at brokerage firm IG, referring to the stimulus measures announced in Japan as well as U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond's indication that "fiscal easing is likely to be announced in his 'Autumn Statement'."

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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But not all analysts were convinced that the Bank of Japan's monetary policy was working.

Since the central bank announced last week that it would only increase its purchase of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), while keeping interest rates and its purchases of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) unchanged, JGB yields have risen.

Yield moves inversely to bond prices and the relatively higher yields seen in recent sessions indicated investors were selling off JGBs.

At the same time, the government had announced an expansion of its fiscal spending in the form of a 28 trillion yen stimulus package.

"The ongoing rout in JGBs hints that the authorities will need to ultimately restructure the JGB holdings of the BOJ," said Jefferies analysts in a note to clients.

The analysts added, "The combination of higher JGB yields and a firmer yen is unintentionally tightening monetary conditions ... [and] rising JGB yields raise the cost of government borrowing at a time when the government debt-to-GDP is around 240 percent."

"The authorities will need to act quickly," they said.

On Friday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year JGB fell slightly to negative 0.089 percent, compared to Thursday's levels near negative 0.077 percent. Two weeks earlier, the yield hovered below negative 0.240 percent.

The Japanese yen traded at 101.02 as of 2:25 p.m. HK/SIN, similar to levels on Thursday afternoon local time.

In company news, airline carrier Virgin Australia reported a loss of 224.7 million Australian dollars ($171.74 million) for the fiscal year ended June 30, citing a previously announced pre-tax restructuring charges. Underlying profit before tax came in at A$41 million, which was in line with guidance, and up by A$90.1 million on-year. The company did not declare or pay any dividends for the year ended June 30, 2016.

Virgin Australia shares closed up 2.08 percent.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In Japan, Nikon shares climbed to close up 4.39 percent, lower than the 8 percent gain posted in early trade, after the company announced its first quarter earnings results on Thursday.

The electronics maker reported net profit rose 176.2 percent to 11.49 billion yen ($113.31 million), up from 4.16 billion yen in the three months ended June 30, 2015.

For the full year, Nikon left its net profit forecast unchanged at 30 billion yen.

Indonesia surprised markets with a strong second quarter gross domestic production (GDP) reading. Reuters reported it was the strongest growth level in 10 quarters in April-June, with the economy growing by 5.18 percent on-year, versus a poll which predicted a 5 percent growth rate.

Wellian Wiranto, an economist with Singapore's OCBC bank, said the GDP data showed "the Indonesian economy has a lot more momentum going for it than market had expected."

Beyond the headline print, Wiranto said there were several "encouraging signs" about the country's economic health. "The crucial private consumption regained some vitality ... meanwhile support from government spending has also come forth more readily in Q2," he said.

The Jakarta composite index advanced 0.8 percent in afternoon trade to 5,416.79, its highest level in 15 months.

Oil prices retreated during Asian hours, with U.S. crude futures dropping 1.10 percent to $41.47 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent was down 1.15 percent at $43.78.

Energy players in the region traded mostly higher, with Santos adding 1.53 percent, Woodside Petroleum gaining 0.98 percent and Inpex up 0.98 percent.

Stateside, U.S. stocks closed mostly flat, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing at 18,352.05.