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Asia trades mixed; Japanese automakers sell off more than 1% each following Trump's Toyota rebuke

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Markets in Asia finished mixed Friday, with most Japanese automakers coming under pressure after President-elect Donald Trump threatened Toyota with hefty taxes and the yen climbed against the dollar.

Shares of Toyota fell 1.69 percent, Nissan was down 2.21 percent, Honda off by 1.91 percent, Mazda Motor down 3.17 percent and Mitsubishi Motors off by 2.64 percent. The Nikkei Stock Average closed down 66.36 points, or 0.34 percent, at 19,454.33, but posted a 1.7 percent gain for the week.

On Thursday, Trump rebuked Toyota on Twitter and threatened the automaker with a large border tax if it builds a new plant outside the U.S. In response, on Friday, Japan's trade minister Hiroshige Seko said Japanese companies have and will continue to contribute to employment in the U.S., according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the yen strengthened to 116.03 against the dollar on Friday afternoon Asia time, from levels above 118.00 earlier in the week.

Elsewhere, Australia's benchmark ASX 200 closed near flat at 5,755.58. Shares failed to react to government data on Friday, which showed a surprise trade surplus in November of A$1.243 billion ($912 billion), the first in nearly three years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed exports jumped 8 percent on-month, beating analysts' expectations, while imports remained unchanged.

South Korea's Kospi gained 7.17 points, or 0.35 percent, to 2,049.12. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was flat in late afternoon trade. Chinese mainland shares declined, with the Shanghai composite closing down 11.12 points, or 0.35 percent, at 3,154.28, while the Shenzhen composite lost 17.44 points, or 0.87 percent, at 1,988.13.

"At this stage, stock markets appear to be holding the line despite the correction of the post U.S. election moves in the dollar and bond markets that is now well and truly under way," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

Stateside Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.87 points, or 0.21 percent, to close at 19,899.29. The S&P 500 dropped 1.75 points, or 0.08 percent, to end at 2,269, while the Nasdaq rose 10.93 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 5,487.94.

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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In the currency market, the dollar retreated to the 101 handle against a basket of currencies on Thursday, from levels above 103.60 reached earlier in the week. At 2:42 p.m. HK/SIN on Friday, the dollar index traded at 101.67.

Tapas Strickland, an economist at the National Australia Bank, suggested in a note China's attempts to stabilize capital outflows likely prompted the moves in the currency market overnight.

On Thursday, China's yuan climbed at its fastest pace against the greenback in a year in offshore trade, offering some relief to a currency bedeviled by capital outflow concerns recently. The dollar fetched as little as 6.8071 yuan in intraday, offshore trade on Thursday, the pair's lowest since November. By contrast, the onshore yuan traded at 6.8952 against the dollar.

"These moves caused a massive spike in (offshore yuan) and (onshore yuan) funding costs, which has led to a liquidation of long dollar/off-shore yuan and dollar/on-shore yuan positions," Strickland said.

On Friday, the onshore yuan traded at 6.9272 against the dollar, while the offshore yuan was at 6.8278. Among other currency majors, the Australian dollar fetched $0.7316, while the euro traded at $1.0579.

In company news, electronics giant Samsung predicted a 50 percent rise in operating profitfor the October-December quarter. Samsung shares climbed 1.80 percent to 1,810,000 won, soundly beating the broader South Korean index.

— Leslie Shaffer contributed to this report.

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