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Stocks in Asia pressured as investors digest corporate earnings; dollar wobbles

  • The dollar wobbled after firming overnight on stronger-than-expected U.S. durable goods orders
  • Asia markets focused on regional corporate earnings

Asian indexes closed mostly lower on Friday as investors parsed through corporate earnings in the region.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slid 0.6 percent, or 119.8 points, to close at 19,959.84. South Korea's benchmark Kospi index declined 1.73 percent, or 42.25 points, to end at 2,400.99.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.42 percent, or 82.192 points, to finish the session at 5,702.818, driven by broad-based losses across all sub-indexes. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index was down 1.7 percent and the health care sub-index tumbled 2.08 percent.

Greater China markets were mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.55 percent, or 150.23 points, to close at 26,980.94. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite closed higher by 0.13 percent, or 4.3438 points, at 3,254.1252. The Shenzhen Composite finished the session above the flat line, up 0.129 percent, or 2.4142 points, at 1,868.3724.

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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"Just overall, there is that uneasy sense in Asia. Risk aversion has picked up noticeably over the past twenty-four hours and it's not entirely clear what's driven it," Westpac Bank senior currency strategist Sean Callow told CNBC's "Street Signs."

The greenback edged down following news the Senate had voted down the "skinny" Obamacare repeal bill Thursday U.S. time. The dollar had firmed slightly in the overnight session on the back of better-than-expected U.S. durable goods orders for the month of June.

The dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of six major currencies, stood at 93.777 at 3:55 p.m. HK/SIN, up from an overnight low of 93.152, but off Thursday's high of 94.103.

A slight change in the Federal Reserve's language in a statement released at the end of the Federal Market Open Committee meeting on Wednesday saw the dollar fall to its lowest point in more than a year on Wednesday. Uncertainty over the Trump administration's ability to push through proposed policies has also weighed on the U.S. currency for the past few weeks.

"Fading the GOP's progress seems to be the best bet," BK Asset Management Managing Director of FX Strategy Kathy Lien said in a note.

Ahead, the dollar was likely to trade with a downward bias before the release of nonfarm payrolls due next week, Lien added.

Within Asia, regional markets focused their attention on corporate earnings.

Hong Kong-listed insurer AIA Group reported operating profit after tax rose 16 percent on-year to $2.26 billion in the first half of the year, the company said in a statement issued to the Hong Kong Exchange Friday. AIA shares were down 2.06 percent.

Shares of Nissan closed down 4.11 percent after the automaker announced a 12.8 percent on-year fall in operating profit for its fiscal first quarter Thursday. The company recorded operating profit of 153.3 billion yen ($1.38 billion) for its April-to-June quarter, below forecasts for 171.45 billion yen, Reuters said.

Reporting season was also underway for Singapore's banks. United Overseas Bank announced an on-year 5.5 percent rise in net profit for the second quarter. The bank's net profit after tax stood at 845 million Singapore dollars ($621 million).

That followed Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp's Thursday announcement that its second-quarter net profit rose 22 percent on-year. UOB shares were down 2.03 percent and OCBC shares lower by 1.13 percent at 3:58 p.m. HK/SIN.

Other market movers included tech names in South Korea. Samsung Electronics closed down 4.1 percent a day after the company reported record profit. Other tech stocks also moved lower, with SK Hynix falling 5.56 percent by the end of the session.

In corporate news, Toshiba reached a deal to pay SCANA $2.168 billion to exit from incomplete U.S. nuclear projects undertaken by Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse, Reuters reported. Toshiba was expected to make the payout in installments starting in October, Reuters said. Toshiba shares finished down 10.88 percent.

Meanwhile, oil prices were most steady after rising to touch a two-month high in the overnight session. Brent crude rose 0.12 percent to trade at $51.55 a barrel, but U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was slipped 0.08 percent to trade at $49.00 a barrel.

"On a quiet news day for energy markets, trader will look to the Baker Hughes rig count tonight for further signs of slowing shale drilling. The market will also be sensitive to headlines from Venezuela with the U.S. Congress' D-day for sanctions approaching on (July 30)," OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said in a note.

The economic calendar for Friday was fairly crowded. South Korea kicked off data releases, announcing that industrial output had slipped 0.2 percent in June, compared with the month before, missing the 1 percent gain forecast in a Reuters survey.

Over in Japan, retail sales for June increased 2.1 percent on year, compared with the 2.3 percent expected by economists, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Japan core consumer prices gained 0.4 percent on-year in June, in line with the annual rise in prices forecast. Without taking changes in fresh food and energy prices into consideration, consumer prices were unchanged in June on year, Reuters said.

The yen firmed slightly following the headlines, with the dollar fetching as little as as 110.90 yen, compared with around 111.13 yen seen before the CPI data release. It later gave up those gains to stand at 111.09 yen to the dollar at 3:57 p.m. HK/SIN.

In Europe, investors were expected to keep an eye on consumer confidence data released at 5:00 p.m. HK/SIN. In addition, U.S. GDP due during the stateside trading day will be closely watched by markets.

Major indexes on Wall Street closed lower Thursday following a decline in technology stocks on a bout of profit taking. The sector had notched an intraday high earlier in the day.