Asia Markets

Nikkei climbs to nearly 11-month high, boosted by weaker yen, but other Asia markets stumble

Ratib Al Safadi | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Asia markets were mixed Friday afternoon, with the Japanese market climbing to an 11-month high on the back of a relatively weaker yen.

The benchmark ended up 104.78 points, or 0.59 percent, at 17,967.41, at its highest close since January 6. The Topix index gained 5.38 points, or 0.38 percent, to 1,428.46.

The yen traded at 110.68 at 1:50 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with levels below 105.00 prior to the U.S. election results.

Investors were left with few details of a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York on Thursday.

After the meeting, Abe said he was confident of building trust with Trump when the latter takes office next year, but did not disclose the meeting's topics, saying the talks were unofficial, according to a Reuters report.

It's likely the future of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which has already been ratified in Japan, was on the agenda. On the campaign trail, Trump had vowed the U.S. would not ratify the 12-member agreement.

"Lack of details on the hour-long 'frank' discussions suggests that none of the uncertainties around TPP and U.S. engagement have been resolved," said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a note, adding the meeting was still a strong reflection of mutually important relations between Japan and the U.S.

"There is a sense that 'Abenomics' and 'Trump-onomics' need not be mutually exclusive," Varathan added.

Shares of major Japanese exporters climbed on Friday morning, with automakers Toyota up 2.68 percent, Nissan higher by 1.71 percent, Mazda up 3.77 percent and Honda gaining 0.98 percent. Electronics makers Sharp, Canon, Nikon and Sony retraced some of their morning gains to close mixed.

In South Korea, the Kospi closed down 5.97 points, or 0.30 percent, at 1,974.58. Heavy-weight Samsung Electronics beat the broader index to climb 1.15 percent. The Korean won traded at 1181.75 against the dollar at 1:53 p.m. HK/SIN, weakening from levels below 1140.00 before the U.S. election results.

Chinese mainland shares were lower in the late afternoon, with the composite down 0.47 percent at 2:43 p.m. HK/SIN, while the Shenzhen composite fell 0.18 percent. In Hong Kong, the was near flat.

Shanghai's property sub-index outperformed the broader market, climbing 0.92 percent in the afternoon, following government data that showed average new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 12.3 percent on-year in October, a faster pace than the 11.2 percent on-year rise in September, reported Reuters.

Property plays in China were mixed in the afternoon session, with Shenzhen-listed shares of Vanke up 3.93 percent, Gemdale erasing gains to trade down 0.73 percent and Poly Real Estate climbing 1.83 percent.

In Australia, the ASX 200 closed up 20.86 points, or 0.39 percent, at 5,359.40, with the heavily-weighted financial sector finishing up 0.45 percent. The gold sector was down 3.17 percent, while the energy sector closed down 0.05 percent.

One analyst pointed out that markets, particularly in Asia-Pacific, needed to take stock of what could happen once Trump takes office next year.

"Markets have arrived at a point where they need to weigh the risks of being caught out by the potential stimulatory impacts of the Trump administration's policies against the risk of being caught by those policies not being implemented," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

The session in Asia followed a positive finish among major U.S indexes on Thursday on the back of remarks from Fed Chair Janet Yellen and upbeat economic data.

"The boost to equities and to the U.S. dollar continued overnight, driven by comments from U.S. Fed Chair (Janet) Yellen and supported by strong U.S. economic data," Tapas Strickland, an economist at the National Australia Bank (NAB), said in a Friday morning note.

The rose 35.68 points, or 0.19 percent, to close at 18,903.82. The S&P 500 gained 10.18 points, or 0.47 percent, to end at 2,187.12, while the composite advanced 39.39 points, or 0.74 percent, to 5,333.97.

U.S. economic data showed housing starts soared more than 25 percent in October stateside, while weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since November 1973. In October, the consumer price index rose 0.4 percent, which was in line with expectations.

Yellen testified to Congress where she said in prepared remarks that a rate hike could be "appropriate relatively soon," and added there were dangers to waiting too long to tighten monetary policy. She added she would not step down from her position as the head of the Federal Reserve until the end of her term.

Her comments pushed the dollar higher, with the , which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, reaching a session high of 101.32. At 2:01 p.m. HK/SIN, the index traded up at 101.19.

The dollar strength saw major currencies weaken against it; the Australian dollar retreated from levels near $0.7560 to trade at $0.7388 Friday afternoon local time, while the euro fell from levels above $1.080 to $1.059.

The Chinese renminbi was also weaker against the dollar. On-shore traded at 6.89, falling from levels below 6.80 before the U.S. election results, while the off-shore yuan traded at 6.91.

"A toxic combination of steeper U.S. yield curve, along with every present discussion of a trade war with the U.S., dominates the current currency landscape, which favors a weaker yuan," said Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA.

Innes added that worries over asset bubbles in the mainland and uncertainty over China's growth trajectory will exacerbate the weakness in the currency.

NAB's Strickland added it was worth noting that Yellen "made no comment on whether the recent rise in the dollar was leading to tighter U.S. financial conditions." He added that the market was likely to interpret her silence as a "green light for the U.S. dollar to rise further."

Elsewhere, oil prices fell, which analysts attributed to a stronger dollar. U.S. crude dropped 1.03 percent to $44.95 a barrel by 2:03 p.m. HK/SIN, while global benchmark Brent was down 0.73 percent at $46.15.

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