Asia Markets

Major Asian indexes close lower following US tax plan unveil; Nikkei falls 0.8%

Key Points
  • Most Asian markets closed lower on Friday
  • Japan's Nikkei 225 extended losses after sharply falling in afternoon trade in the last session
  • Australian miners led losses on the benchmark index
  • China said it would ease foreign ownership limits in the financial sector
  • Investors digested the release of a tax plan from U.S. Senate Republicans. Under that tax bill, a planned cut in corporate taxes stateside would take place only in 2019

Asia markets came under pressure on Friday, following the weaker lead from Wall Street after Senate Republicans unveiled their tax reform plan on Thursday.

Markets on the move 

The Nikkei 225 tumbled 0.82 percent, or 187.29 points, to close at 22,681.42, extending losses made on Thursday when the index sharply fell in the second half of the day after gaining some 2 percent during morning trade.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi lost 0.3 percent to end at 2,542.95. Gains were seen in some manufacturing names, with Posco climbing 1.25 percent, but blue chip names struggled: SK Hynix closed down 0.49 percent, LG Electronics eased 1.67 percent and Hyundai Motors fell 0.64 percent by the end of the day.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.33 percent at 6,029.37 as the materials sub-index led losses on the broader index: Rio Tinto closed down 2.26 percent and BHP lost 1.96 percent.

Greater China markets hovered near the flat line. Hong Kong's added 0.04 percent by 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN while mainland markets bucked the trend in the region to close slightly higher. The edged up 0.16 percent at 3,433.35 and the Shenzhen Composite advanced 0.52 percent at 2,039.17.

China on Friday said it would ease foreign equity ownership rules limiting foreign ownership in financial sector joint-venture companies to 49 percent. The new limit would be increased to 51 percent. Insurance companies climbed following the news: New China Insurance surged 9.04 percent and Ping An Insurance closed up 5.38 percent.

"Global risk appetite retracted amid concerns about the U.S. tax bill prospectus as the Senate plans to push through a different proposal from the House," OCBC Bank said in its morning note.

The pullback in regional markets, however, was likely temporary in nature, one expert said.

"Safe haven assets were only mildly bid, suggesting this is corrective action rather than an unfolding reversal," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets said in a note.

The lead up

Senate Republicans released their tax plan, which contained several differences from a bill introduced by the House, on Thursday. While the bill also called for the corporate tax rate to be cut to 20 percent from 35 percent, that change would likely only come into effect in 2019, a source told CNBC.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday as markets digested news of a possible delay in corporate tax cuts. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.43 percent, or 101.42 points, to close at 23,461.94.

Following the news, the dollar extended losses on Friday — even after falling broadly against a basket of currencies in the last session. The dollar index stood at 94.494 at 2:55 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to Thursday's close of 94.529.

Against the yen, the greenback was a touch softer on the day at 113.35 The U.S. currency had traded around 114 during Asian trade on Thursday before sliding to the 113.5 handle when Japanese equities took a tumble in afternoon Asian trade.

Gold prices traded near their highest levels in around three weeks on the softer dollar. The yellow metal traded at $1,285.77 per ounce.

Corporate news

Indonesia's Bank Danamon said its majority shareholder, Asia Financial (Indonesia), confirmed that it had received an "expression of interest" on its shares in the bank. That came after news that Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group intended to buy a 40 percent stake in Bank Danamon, according to a Thursday report from Nikkei. MUFG is looking to buy Bank Danamon shares via Temasek Holdings, Reuters said. MUFG shares closed down 1.37 percent and Danamon stock was off 0.87 percent after rising more than 15 percent on Thursday.

Toshiba shares fell 5.11 percent, underperforming other Japanese tech stocks after the company reported earnings on Thursday. The company attributed its 76 percent on-year increase in second-quarter operating income to increased sales in its memory business unit, which is due to be sold.

Toshiba is also considering raising around 600 billion yen ($5.3 billion) in capital by offering new shares, Reuters reported on Friday, citing broadcaster NHK.

Also in Japan, embattled steel manufacturer Kobe Steel said Friday it would be releasing findings from an investigation into a data falsification scandal at the company. Shares of the company closed up 1.93 percent.

Chinese search engine Sogou made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Tencent-backed Sogou saw its shares rise by more than 10 percent during the session before closing up 3.85 percent on its first day of trade.

The commodities trade 

Oil prices slipped after settling almost 1 percent higher in the last session as investors digested geopolitical developments in Saudi Arabia. U.S. crude futures slid 0.19 percent to trade at $57.06 and Brent crude edged down 0.2 percent to trade at $63.80.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Thursday called for sanctions to be imposed on Iran for its support of terrorism. The country also said it planned to cut crude exports in December, Reuters reported.