Asian markets close mostly higher, Kospi adds 1.2%; oil prices up

  • Asian markets closed higher following mixed close stateside
  • Reserve Bank of New Zealand stands pat on policy decision; Kiwi sinks to lowest level in nearly a year
  • Toyota shares reverse losses on back of lower profit forecast to end 0.69 percent higher
  • Oil prices higher after gaining 3 percent in previous session

Most Asian indexes closed higher on Thursday and oil prices were up following the mixed close stateside as investors monitored potential fallout of FBI Director James Comey's dismissal.

Comey was dismissed by Trump yesterday reportedly to increase public trust. The search for Comey's replacement is underway.

The Nikkei 225 edged up 0.31 percent or 61.46 points to close at 19,961.55 while South Korea's benchmark Kospi index added 1.16 percent to close at 2,296.37 on Thursday. The ASX 200 closed just 0.05 percent or 2.861 points higher at 5,878.3.

Markets in greater China were mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.48 percent and the Shanghai Composite rose 0.29 percent or 8.9544 points to finish at 3,061.7394. The Shenzhen Composite was lower by 0.187 percent or 3.412 points to close at 1,819.919.

Markets in Indonesia were closed for a public holiday.

ASX 200
CNBC 100

Over in Asia, Japanese automaker Toyota forecast yesterday that profits for this year would fall by 20 percent due to slowing U.S. sales and increased marketing costs. Toyota shares reversed losses above 1 percent during the trading session to close 0.69 percent higher at 6,123 yen a stock.

Nomura maintained a "Buy" call on the stock on the basis of Toyota's share buyback plans. The company had announced that it would buy back 1.65 percent of its shares.

"We expect the company to regain market share in the U.S. from around September 2017 ... (and) continue expanding market share in Europe on the back of its hybrid vehicles," Nomura Research Analyst Masataka Kunugimoto in a note.

Meanwhile, telecommunications giant SoftBank said annual profits increased by 13 percent on year but that it had incurred $2.2 billion in derivative losses. Shares of the company ended the session 2.01 percent higher.

In Singapore, shares of commodities trading company Noble Group tumbled more than 20 percent after the company issued a profit warning. Noble will announce Q1 results after trading hours today. Shares of the company last traded 19.31 percent lower.

OCBC announced that it would be acquiring the private wealth business of National Australia Bank in Singapore and Hong Kong. Shares of NAB were up 0.31 percent to finish at A$32.30 a stock and OCBC shares gained 0.96 percent.

"This is a very smart move because ... if you look at the Chinese community, wealth and asset management is going to be a bigger (and) more important industry. And we believe it's a good way to access the middle-class consumers in the China market," Noah Holdings CIO William Ma told CNBC.

Pedestrians on the crosswalk are reflected on a stock indicator at the window of a security company in Tokyo on March 31, 2017.
Toshifumi Kitamura | AFP | Getty Images
Pedestrians on the crosswalk are reflected on a stock indicator at the window of a security company in Tokyo on March 31, 2017.

In New Zealand, the central bank announced it stood pat on interest rates. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand's comments on policy were regarded as dovish by the market.

The Kiwi traded lower against the dollar at $0.6836, its lowest level it almost one year. This New Zealand dollar traded around the $0.69 handle seen just ahead of the news.

The dollar was softer against a basket of rivals, with the dollar index trading at 99.572 after four straight sessions of gains. The dollar also edged lower against the yen, with the greenback fetching 114.08. Dollar/yen traded around 112 last week.

The Australian dollar eased against the dollar to trade at $0.7355, lower than the $0.74 handle seen last week.

Oil prices bounced more than 3 percent in the previous session after U.S. inventories recorded their largest one-week drop this year. U.S. West Texas International crude was up by 0.4 percent to trade at $47.52 a barrel while while Brent crude gained 0.38 percent to trade at $50.41.

In economic news, the Bank of England will announce its interest rate decision at 7:00 pm HK/SIN. The European Central Bank will also be releasing its economic bulletin during European hours.

U.S. equities closed mixed after shrugging off the dismissal of Comey. The Dow Jones industrial average closed lower but both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq notched record closes. Also of note were shares of social media company Snap, which tumbled almost 24 percent after hours on news that the company had missed earnings projections.