Asian shares close mixed despite release of US tax reform plans

  • Asian shares were mixed
  • The dollar extended gains
  • U.S. stocks closed up after the GOP released its tax reform plans
  • The Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept cash rate steady
  • Online insurer ZhongAn Online made its debut on the HKEx

Asian indexes closed mixed on Thursday, after U.S. equities advanced and the greenback rose following the unveiling of a long-awaited tax reform plan stateside.

The Nikkei 225 added 0.47 percent, or 96.06 points, to close at 20,363.11 as most financials and manufacturing names notched gains.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi edged up 0.02 percent to close at 2,373.14. The tech sector turned negative, with shares of heavyweight Samsung Electronics erasing early gains to close down 0.81 percent. SK Hynix outperformed its peers to climb 0.97 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.11 percent to finish the session at 5,670.385, with the health care and utilities sub-indexes leading gains on the broader index. Most bank stocks advanced: Westpac closed up 0.56 percent and NAB rose 0.54 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was under pressure, falling 0.41 percent by 3:26 p.m. HK/SIN. Mainland markets only saw moderate moves. The Shanghai Composite shed 0.15 percent to close at 3,340.1155 and the Shenzhen Composite eased 0.227 percent to end at 1,974.7827.

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A highly-anticipated plan to reform taxes in the U.S. was released by Republicans on Wednesday. The framework proposed bringing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent and reducing the highest individual income tax rate to 35 percent from 39.6 percent.

Investors stateside cheered the tax reform plans, with stocks closing the last session higher. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.25 percent, or 56.39 points, to close at 22,340.71 while the small-cap Russell 2000 surged to a record high on Wednesday.

Despite optimism on Wall Street, questions remained over how the tax cuts would be funded.

"It's still going to be a long road to congressional approval and the changes that we've seen so far are less encouraging than his campaign promises," said Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy for BK Asset Management, in a note.

Still, the dollar extended gains after rising on the developments out of Washington as well as a better-than-expected durable good orders print in August.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of rivals, stood at 93.649 at 3:27 p.m. HK/SIN, above a high of 93.607 touched overnight. Against the Japanese currency, the dollar edged up to 112.86 yen after touching as high as 113.19 earlier in the session.

The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note continued its rise, climbing as high as 2.359 percent on Thursday, above the 2.31 percent seen on Wednesday and touching its highest since July. The ten-year yield stood at 2.34 percent at 3:33 p.m. HK/SIN.

Among stocks, Chinese insurer ZhongAn Online made its debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday to much fanfare. The online-only insurer saw its stock climb to HK$66 by 3:36 p.m. HK/SIN, 10.1 percent above its issue price of HK$59.70. The company is backed by prominent names, including Alibaba Group Holding's Jack Ma, Tencent Holdings' Pony Ma and Ping An Insurance Group's Ma Mingzhe.

Shares of delivery services company Yamato Holdings closed up 2.11 percent following Reuters headlines that the company may have persuaded Amazon to pay more for shipping in Japan.

Meanwhile, Japanese automakers were mixed after a Reuters report that Toyota, Mazda and auto parts manufacturer Denso intended to form a joint venture to make electric vehicles. Toyota shares closed 0.31 percent higher, Mazda surged 3.08 percent and Denso rose 1.82 percent. But Nissan finished the session 1.15 percent lower and Suzuki lost 0.93 percent.

On the energy front, oil edged down. Brent crude extended losses, falling 0.54 percent to $57.59 a barrel after settling almost 1 percent down in the last session. U.S. crude inched lower, trading 0.29 percent down at $51.99.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand on Thursday kept its cash rate steady at 1.75 percent. The central bank also said in a statement that a softer Kiwi dollar would help to fuel inflation. That was a slight change in language from the RBNZ's August statement that said a weaker Kiwi dollar was "needed," Reuters reported.

The Kiwi dollar edged down against the greenback to trade at $0.7182 at 3:28 p.m. HK/SIN, a touch below lows of $0.7198 seen overnight.

In other currency moves, the Canadian dollar was softer against the dollar after Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz gave a speech seen dovish by the markets. The loonie traded at 1.2492 to the dollar at 3:28 p.m. HK/SIN, weaker than the 1.23 handle seen for the past week.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian rupiah touched a 10-month low earlier in the session, trading as low as 13,550 rupiah to the dollar. The Indonesian currency last traded at 13,530 to the dollar.

Elsewhere, the Bank of Thailand on Wednesday kept its policy rate unchanged, as was widely expected. Still, the move was contrary to calls from the government to cut rates due to the firmer Thai baht, according to local media.