- Asian markets lower in early trade; Nikkei down 0.4%, Kospi dips 0.3%, ASX mostly flat
- Samsung reports Q1 earnings best since 2013, shares up 2.2%
- Investors eye Trump tax reform plans
Markets in Asia closed mostly higher on Thursday, following the lower close on Wall Street as investors parsed details on U.S. President Donald Trump's highly-anticipated tax reform plans.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index eased by 0.19 percent or 37.56 points to close at 19,251.87 on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan held on, as was widely expected, but raised its economic forecast.
The ASX 200 rose 0.16 percent or 9.464 points to close at 5,921.5 after trading effectively flat earlier in the session. Over in South Korea, the Kospi reversed losses made earlier in the session to trade higher by 0.07 percent or 1.62 points to close at 2,209.46 as major companies reported earnings.
Shares in greater China closed higher after a roller coaster session. The was rose 0.37 percent or 11.6987 points to close at 3,152.5458 after initially tumbling around 1.3 percent, while the Shenzhen Composite was gained 0.542 percent or 10.2466 points to finish at 1,900.0338. It had fallen 1.778 percent earlier. The mood was similar in Hong Kong, where the was up by 0.35 percent.
Even though Trump's proposed changes in the tax system included a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, the plan left investors with questions on whether the changes would increased the budget deficit.
"Having bought the rumor, U.S. investors sold after the unveiling of President Trump's tax plan," CMC Markets' Chief Market Strategist Michael McCarthy said in a note.
"Although the initial response was positive ... the looming market close sparked a minor panic," he said, adding that the strengthening dollar could work against regional markets excluding Japan.
IMA Asia Managing Director Richard Martin told CNBC that he was more concerned with whether the tax reform would boost sentiment among U.S. corporations.
"It's not like you need to cut taxes to give companies money to invest now. (Corporates in America) are sitting on record cash piles ... Sort of the mediocre response we got in the market here is (because) companies still aren't sure the plan, which has a lot to like in it, is deliverable," Martin said.
In South Korea, Samsung Electronics said its first quarter profits were the best since 2013 due to solid earnings from its memory chip segment, according to Reuters. Samsung shares initially dropped more than 1.8 percent after the company said it would not be introducing a holding company structure. Shares later recovered to trade 2.43 percent higher to close at 2,192,000 won per stock.
Shares of Samsung's other listed units traded lower following news that the company would not restructure. Samsung SDI was closed lower by 2.86 percent, Samsung C&T dropped 6.84 percent and Samsung Engineering tanked 6.04 percent to close at 12,450 won per stock.
Nevertheless, Nomura noted in a Wednesday research note that it was increasing its target price for Samsung Engineering from 15,000 won to 17,000 won due to a "positive overseas new orders pipeline."
LG Display reported record quarterly earnings on Wednesday but shares of the LCD panel maker were down 4.94 percent to finish at 29,850 won a stock.
Over in Hong Kong, China Vanke shares were down 1.93 percent following news that the sales of two Vanke property projects in the city of Xian, China had been halted. Vanke shares on the mainland closed 2.95 percent lower.
Gaming stocks, which soared more than 3 percent across the board in the previous session, gave up some of their gains. Sands China was off 2.99 percent, Galaxy Entertainment declined 2.72 percent and Wynn Macau dropped 2.74 percent.
Deutsche Bank said in a research note that it was changing its call on the gaming sector in Macau from Overweight to Neutral as Macau's recovery had already been priced in. DB downgraded the stocks of Sands China, Galaxy, MGM China and SJM Holdings from Buy to Hold, noting that "slowing momentum in spend per mass player might be a precursor to lower mass gross gaming revenue growth."
The Canadian dollar recovered after Trump told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about that he would not terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The loonie tumbled to a fourteen-month low earlier in the session on trade worries. The dollar fetched C$1.3552 at 1:55 pm HK/SIN.
The greenback strengthened slightly against the yen to trade at 111.24. Meanwhile, the Aussie gained against the dollar, after falling for three consecutive sessions. The Australian dollar last traded at $0.7484. The dollar weakened against a basket of rivals to trade at 98.927.
On the economic front, South Korea estimated Q1 GDP grew 0.9 percent compared to the previous quarter due to improvements in exports and investment.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank's rate decision is expected later in the day.
Stateside, major indexes closed marginally lower as stocks gave up some of their gains after Trump's tax plans were outlined, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing 0.1 percent or 21.03 points lower to close at 20,978.09.