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Stocks in Asia edge up as investors digest China trade data

  • Most Asian indexes close higher
  • China reports September trade data
  • Samsung Electronics says it's on track for record profit
  • U.S. producer prices rose in September, and investors await CPI figures

Markets in Asia finished the session mostly higher on Friday as investors digested the release of China trade data. U.S. inflation and retail sales data are also due just ahead of the trading day stateside.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.96 percent, or 200.46 points, to close at 21,155.18 after touching a fresh 21-year high earlier in the session. Retail names gained although automakers recorded slight declines: Fast Retailing soared 5.58 percent, Seven & I Holdings rose 2.78 percent and Toyota closed down 0.4 percent.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed down 0.05 percent at 2,473.62. Tech stocks were mixed after Samsung indicated it was on track for record profits, while retailers and cosmetic plays rallied: Shinsegae closed up 5.59 percent and Amorepacific surged 6.48 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.34 percent to close at 5,814.2. The telecommunications sub-index led gains on the index, rising 0.76 percent on the day.

Greater China markets were higher as investors digested trade data released Friday. The Hang Seng Index added 0.05 percent by 3:15 p.m. HK/SIN. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite ended 0.16 percent higher at 3,391.5377 while the Shenzhen Composite tacked on 0.665 percent to close at 2,036.8060.

China September exports in dollar terms rose 8.1 percent compared to one year ago while imports increased 18.7 percent in the same period, Reuters said. The rise in imports topped economist estimates while the increase in exports came just short. Still, the exports increase in September was higher than the 5.5 percent seen in August.

Additionally, the country's trade surplus in dollar terms came in at its lowest levels since March, according to Reuters.

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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U.S. producer prices increased 0.4 percent in September, Reuters said, as investors awaited the release of the consumer inflation data due Friday U.S. time. That release is expected to show an annual inflation rate of 2.3 percent, according to forecasts compiled by FactSet.

Minutes released this week from the Federal Reserve's previous meeting showed the central bank continued to be divided over the inflation outlook in the U.S.

The dollar pared gains after edging up against a basket of currencies overnight. The dollar index stood at 92.968 at 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN, below Thursday's close of 93.097.

Against the Japanese currency, the greenback fell to trade at 111.89 yen.

U.S. CPI data due later, however, could "offer an opportunity" for the greenback to see some upside after the Fed minutes this week proved to be a "trigger for downturn," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG, in a note.

Meanwhile, shares in the U.S. closed lower on Thursday after major U.S. financials reported quarterly results. Earnings from JPMorgan and Citigroup both beat expectations, but shares of the companies finished the session lower. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.14 percent, or 31.88 points, to close at 22,814.01.

Elsewhere, the pound rose to trade at $1.3296 at 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN — its highest level in more than a week. The currency had gained on Thursday after German outlet Handelsblatt reported that the U.K. could remain in the European Union for two more years.

In corporate news, Samsung Electronics said its vice chairman and chief executive officer, Oh-Hyun Kwon, had decided to step down from management. The announcement came after the company said third-quarter operating profit was likely to increase 179 percent compared to one year ago. Shares of the company closed down 1.46 percent, having rallied early this week on profit expectations.

Japan's Asahi Group Holdings could sell its almost 20 percent stake in Tsingtao Brewery, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The move to divest from Tsingtao was in line with the Japanese brewer's push to grow its business in Europe, Nikkei added. Asahi stock finished the session up 1.81 percent. Shares of Tsingtao soared: Shares of the company traded on the mainland jumped 5.02 percent by the end of the session while Hong Kong-listed shares surged 4.45 percent by 3:07 p.m. HK/SIN.

In economic news, advance third quarter Singapore GDP showed the economy grew 4.6 percent compared to the same quarter in the previous year. That was above the 3.8 percent growth median figure forecast by analysts in a Reuters survey. The city-state's central bank also said Friday it would be holding monetary policy steady.

Oil markets took note of the greater-than-expected decrease in U.S. stockpiles, with prices climbing after settling down more than 1 percent in the last session. Brent crude futures soared 0.98 percent to trade at $56.80 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate advanced 1.19 percent to $51.20.

— CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury and Alex Rosenberg contributed to this report.