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Most Asia markets gain despite slide on Wall Street as investors focus on Jackson Hole; dollar firms

  • Stocks in Asia gained despite the slide on Wall Street overnight
  • Shares of several Samsung affiliate closed down after Samsung Group's de-facto head was given a five-year prison term
  • The dollar firmed as investors anticipated a central banking meeting in Jackson Hole

Most indexes in Asia closed higher on Friday, shaking off a slip on Wall Street due to uncertainty in Washington while investors anticipated an annual central banking symposium in Jackson Hole.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.51 percent, or 98.84 points, to close at 19,452.61, with gains in automakers, trading houses and financials driving the broader rise in the index. Across the Korean strait, the Kospi erased earlier losses and gained 0.11 percent, or 2.67 points, to close at 2,378.51.

Shares of several Samsung affiliates on the Korea Exchange closed lower after a court announced Friday that Samsung Group's de facto head, Jay Y. Lee, committed bribery and embezzled 6.4 billion won, according to Reuters. Lee was reportedly sentenced to a five-year jail term. Following the announcement, Samsung Electronics deepened losses seen earlier in the session to close down 1.05 percent and Samsung C&T fell 1.48 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.03 percent, or 1.576 points, to finish the session at 5,743.9, as investors digested earnings.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.21 percent by 3:12 p.m. HK/SIN as markets cheered strong earnings posted by several corporates after the market close on Thursday. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite jumped 1.84 percent, or 60.1524 points, to close at 3,331.6641 and the Shenzhen Composite added 1.039 percent, or 19.6457 points, to end at 1,910.1301.

India markets were closed for a public holiday.

Although regional shares began the session on shakier footing, most indexes extended gains as trade progressed on Friday. IG Market Strategist Jingyi Pan said there was no particular driver that had caused sentiment to firm through the day, although energy stocks in the region had been resilient.

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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Investors also awaited Friday speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi at an annual central banking meeting in Jackson Hole.

Despite interest in the central bankers' speeches, some experts said major changes in policy are unlikely.

"Due to the uncertainty in the global markets and recent sell-off in U.S. stocks, there's no better reason than the now for Yellen and Draghi to stick to script," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note.

Ahead of the Jackson Hole meeting, the dollar index, which tracks the dollar against major currencies, edged up to stand at 93.395 at 3:19 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to an overnight low of 93.139.

Against the Japanese currency, the greenback firmed to fetch 109.68 yen. The dollar had fallen below the 109 handle earlier in the week after Trump warned he could shut down the government if he didn't secure funds to build a proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

"Markets are trying to get past the noise (and tweets) in U.S. politics, with risk aversion from the day before being traded off for cautious, if not defensive, positioning [at] Jackson Hole," Mizuho Bank Head of Economics and Strategy Vishnu Varathan wrote in a Friday note.

Developments in Washington were also on the radar, after the president criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan in a series of tweets on Thursday. A White House statement on Wednesday said Trump and McConnell were "united on many shared priorities."

In corporate news, Toshiba has been offered $1.9 trillion yen ($17.4 billion) for its memory chip unit, Reuters reported Thursday. The offer was made by a consortium including Western Digital and Innovation Network Corp of Japan, among others. Toshiba stock closed flat while other technology stocks in Japan proved a mixed picture.

Australia's Qantas Airways reported on Friday its second-highest result in the company's history. The airline's underlying profit before tax rose to A$1.4 billion ($1.1 billion) for the year ending on Jun. 30. That was above the A$1.38 pre-tax profit forecast by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/. Qantas stock erased a fall of more than 2 percent in early trade to climb 3.79 percent by the end of the session.

Other market movers during the session included several Hong Kong-listed corporates that posted results after the market close on Thursday. Property developer China Vanke, for one, saw stock rose more than 2 percent in early trade before slipping 0.43 percent by 3:19 p.m. HK/SIN. The company reported a 36.5 percent rise in net profit for the half of the year ending on Jun. 30.

App company Meitu rose 4.47 percent by 3:17 p.m. HK/SIN after it said its net loss for the first half of the year was reduced by 94 percent compared to the year before. Meitu's total revenue increased almost threefold compared to one year ago.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed oil stocks gained after CNOOC and PetroChina announced strong first-half results that beat expectations. CNOOC and PetroChina saw their shares jump 2.96 percent and 4.15 percent respectively by 3:18 p.m. HK/SIN.

Oil gained after taking a hit overnight due to Hurricane Harvey approaching the U.S. coast. Global benchmark Brent crude advanced 0.92 percent to trade at $52.52 a barrel and U.S. crude rose 0.8 percent to trade at $47.81.

The uptick in prices came as operations were halted to prepare for the hurricane's arrival and on market projections that the shutdown could be prolonged on damage caused by Harvey, Reuters said.

In economic news, Japan July CPI rose 0.5 percent compared to one year ago, according to Reuters. That was the seventh consecutive month of gains in core consumer prices, Reuters said.

Equities stateside closed slightly lower despite a sharp rise in retail stocks, with the Dow Jones industrial average slipping 0.13 percent, or 28.69 points, to close at 21,783.4.