Asia Markets

Asian stocks recoup some losses as dollar gains

Key Points
  • Asian shares recouped some losses after major indexes fell around 2 percent in the last session
  • The dollar broadly firmed on U.S. tax reform hopes
  • The Australian dollar declined on weaker-than-expected trade data
  • Bitcoin crossed the $14,000 mark for the first time

Asian markets closed mixed on Thursday, as the Hang Seng Index and Nikkei 225 recouped some losses after falling around 2 percent on Wednesday. Stateside, major indexes closed narrowly mixed as investors awaited tax reform developments.

Markets on the move

Japan's Nikkei 225 bounced 1.45 percent, or 320.99 points, to close at 22,498.03 after falling nearly 2 percent in the previous session. Gains were seen across sectors, with automakers, tech and trading houses all climbing higher. Energy-related plays were mixed.

Across the Korean Strait, the benchmark Kospi index slipped 0.5 percent to end at 2,461.98. Gains in some tech heavyweights were offset by losses in the manufacturing and oil sectors. Blue-chip Samsung Electronics closed up 1.44 percent while steelmakers Posco and Hyundai Steel edged down 0.15 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively, by the end of the day.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.54 percent to finish the session at 5,977.72. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index gained 0.75 percent as Australia's "Big Four" banks recorded gains on the day: ANZ tacked on 0.85 percent and Westpac closed up 1.32 percent. Major miners were mixed.

Greater China markets were mixed. Hong Kong's rose 0.3 percent by 3:50 p.m. HK/SIN, clawing back some gains after recording its largest fall in a year on Wednesday. Tech shares, however, continued to struggle — although Tencent added 3.17 percent by 3:50 p.m. HK/SIN.

On the mainland, the lost 0.67 percent to close at 3,272 and the Shenzhen Composite edged down by 0.6 percent to end at 1,868.42. Blue chips continued to flounder as investors took profits, with the CSI 300 index finishing down 1.11 percent.

Stateside, tech stocks finished higher on Wednesday although the S&P 500 closed below the flat line for the fourth consecutive day. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.16 percent, or 39.73 points, to close at 24,140.91.

The lead up

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move provoked sharp words from leaders in the Arab world, with a statement from Saudi Arabia calling the decision "irresponsible and unwarranted."

Tax reform was also high on the agenda after the U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to go to a conference committee with the House to negotiate a plan to reform the tax system after both chambers passed separate bills earlier this quarter.

The dollar extended gains as investors digested the developments on Capitol Hill. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major currencies, stood at 93.651 at 3:40 p.m. HK/SIN, its highest level in more than two weeks.

The dollar was firmer against the yen, with the greenback last fetching 112.56 compared to Wednesday's close of 112.27.

On the economic front, U.S. private payrolls rose 190,000 in November, according to a monthly ADP/Moody's Analytics report on Wednesday. That figure was a touch above the 185,000 forecast by economists in a Reuters poll.

Bitcoin was also in the news after it crossed the $14,000 mark for the first time. The new milestone came less than 24 hours after the cryptocurrency has hit $12,000 for the first time. The increase in price came ahead of planned bitcoin futures launches.

Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of India kept interest rates steady and maintained its neutral stance on Wednesday, as was widely expected by markets.

"The overall tone of the statement was slightly more hawkish than the previous statement, though probably to a lesser extent than the market had expected," said Morgan Stanley analysts in an early morning note.

Currency watch

The Australian dollar fell after the country's trade surplus for October came in at A$105 million — sharply below the A$1.38 billion forecast in a Reuters poll. The Aussie dollar traded at $0.7535 at 3:39 p.m. HK/SIN after falling as low as $0.7530 in the session and closing at $0.7562 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar was in focus after the Bank of Canada held interest rates steady on Wednesday after twice raising rates earlier this year. The loonie extended overnight losses to trade at $1.2810 to the dollar at 3:40 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels around the $1.26 handle seen earlier.

Corporate news

The Australian Securities Exchange said in a Thursday statement it intended to replace its existing clearing and settlement system with distributed ledger technology, or blockchain. The new system will be open to market feedback at the end of March 2018, the ASX said. ASX shares closed up 0.67 percent.

Elsewhere, Walgreens Boots Alliance on Wednesday said it would acquire 40 percent of Sinopharm Holding Guoda Drugstores, a Chinese retail pharmacy operator. Walgreens said it would buy the stake for 2.77 billion yuan ($416 million) from China National Accord Medicines Corporation.

The commodities trade

Meanwhile, oil prices were little changed after declining in the last session on a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. gasoline stocks. U.S. West Texas Intermediate shed 0.09 percent to trade at $55.91 per barrel after falling 2.9 percent on Wednesday. Brent crude edged up 0.03 percent to $61.24.

"A risk-off tone in [the] commodity market doesn't look like changing in the short term, with profit taking likely to continue for the rest of the week," ANZ Head of Australian Economics David Plank said in a morning note.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.