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Asia stocks trade mixed as China export data disappoints

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese shares slid on Friday as investors digested China's underwhelming exports for December and disappointing full-year trade figures.

Chinese exports in December decreased 6.1 percent on-year in dollar-denominated terms, while imports rose 3.1 percent from the previous year.

Both figures were lower than forecasts by a Reuters poll of economists, which had expected exports to fall by 3.5 percent and imports to rise 2.4 percent. For the full year, China's exports dropped 7.7 percent on-year in dollar terms and imports fell 5.5 percent.

The Shanghai composite wavered for most of the session, and closed down 0.22 percent or 7 points at 3,112.3 while Shenzhen composite was off 1.55 percent or 31.3 points at 1,921.

In South Korea, the Kospi lost 0.5 percent or 10.35 points at 2,076.8, after the Bank of Korea left benchmark rates unchanged at 1.25 percent, which was aligned with expectations by a Reuters poll of analysts, as it awaits for more policy clarity out of the U.S. under a Trump administration.

Samsung Group leader Jay Lee left the special prosecutor's office early on Friday after being held for more than 22 hours for questioning over bribery suspicions in a corruption scandal, involving President Park Geun-hye.

The special prosecutor's office is considering whether to seek an arrest warrant for Lee and will decide in two days, a spokesman for the investigation team said on Friday, Reuters reported.

Heavily-weighted Samsung Electronics, plunged 3.45 percent, Samsung C&T was up 0.39 percent, earlier down 1.17 percent, and Samsung Heavy dropped 0.94 percent.

The Nikkei 225 finished in the green, up 0.8 percent or 152.6 points at 19,287.3.

Electronics entertainment company Nintendo was down 5.75 percent, as the company unveiled the Switch console, a hand-held hybrid with a touch-pad which was priced at at $299.99, excluding sales tax. Investors had expected the price point of the new device to be about $250.

Troubled airbag maker Takata soared 16.47 percent or 150 points to hit its daily price limits in just thirty minutes of trading, after the Journal reported that it could plead guilty by Friday to criminal misconduct over defective air bags and pay nearly $1 billion to resolve the criminal probe.

The settlement would include a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million in victim compensation and $850 million to compensate automakers who suffered losses from the recalls, sources told Reuters.

Australia's ASX 200 finished down 0.79 percent or 45.75 points at 5,721.1, with its financial sub-index leading the losses, down 1.43 percent.

Australia's "Big Four" were dragged down more than 1 percent: National Australia Bank fell 1.33 percent, Commonwealth Bank was off 1.38 percent, ANZ slipped 1.82 percent and Westpac was 1.58 percent lower.

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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Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.4 percent by the afternoon.

Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development surged up 1.68 percent, after its subsidiary announced a special dividend of around $650 million and amended its dividend policy from one based on about 30 percent to one targeting quarterly cash dividend payment of $0.03 per ordinary share, Reuters reported.

Investors also noted Fed Chair Janet Yellen avoided any remarks on monetary policy in prepared remarks at an event late Thursday in the U.S., though she did later say she had no major worries on the economy over the short term.

At the same time, a downbeat reaction to a Wednesday press conference by President-elect Donald Trump lingered. He took shots at the pharmaceutical industry and failed to provide new details on three of his key policies: tax reform, deregulation of certain sectors and fiscal stimulus. The lack of details saw traders unwind some of their Trump trade, which sent stocks and the dollar lower.

The greenback was up against a basket of currencies to trade at 101.4, compared to levels as low as 100.72 on Thursday in the U.S.

"With just over a week until his inauguration, (traders) hoped that Donald Trump would spend some time outlining the scope of his infrastructure plans," said Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy for BK Asset Management. "Unfortunately the President-elect failed to do so yesterday and the U.S. dollar dropped as a result."

Among other currency majors, the yen slipped against the greenback to trade at 114.87, compared to yesterday's lows of 113.73. The Australian dollar continued to rally to one-month high against the dollar, at $0.75 compared to levels around $0.72 seen last week.

Stateside, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 63.28 points, or 0.32 percent, to close at 19,891. The S&P 500 fell 4.88 points, or 0.21 percent to 2,270.44, while the Nasdaq composite dropped 16.16 points, or 0.29 percent, to end at 5,547.49.

Oil prices gained during Asian trade, with U.S. crude futures up 0.19 percent to $53.11 a barrel, and global benchmark Brent inching up 0.2 percent to $56.12.

Spot gold eased 0.24 percent to $1,192.20 per ounce, after hitting a high of $1,206.98 on Thursday, its best since Nov.23.

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