Asia Markets

Nikkei leads move higher in Asia markets; China trade data tops forecasts

Key Points
  • Asian markets edged up, following gains seen on Wall Street in the last session
  • Japan third-quarter GDP was upwardly revised to 2.5 percent from 1.4 percent
  • China trade data beat expectations
  • Bitcoin soared above $19,000 for the first time on Thursday — but then it tumbled
  • Oil prices were a tad softer after gaining more than 1 percent on Thursday

Asian markets closed higher on Friday as markets digested better-than-expected China trade data and tracked the move higher in the dollar.

Markets on the move 

The Nikkei 225 advanced 1.39 percent, or 313.05 points, to close at 22,811.08, rebounding after recording a near 2 percent fall in the middle of the week. Also providing support for the increase was the softer yen, which traded above the 113 level to the dollar. Automakers, tech names and trading houses recorded gains.

Of note, Japan's third-quarter GDP was revised upward to 2.5 percent from the preliminary estimate of 1.4 percent, Reuters reported. On a quarterly basis, the economy grew 0.6 percent from one quarter ago, compared to the 0.4 percent forecast, the wire service added. Following the release, the dollar fetched 113.44 yen at 3:06 p.m. HK/SIN, above Thursday's close of 113.07.

The better-than-expected GDP figure "should further add to risk-taking," OCBC Treasury Research said in a morning note, adding that recovery in risk appetite in recent sessions came from progress made in U.S. tax reform proceedings.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi edged up 0.08 percent to end at 2,646 as gains in heavyweight tech names offset losses seen in automakers and manufacturing plays. Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix closed up 2.48 percent and 3.55 percent, respectively. Hyundai Motor fell 1.86 percent and steelmaker Posco slid 0.6 percent by the end of the session.

Samsung Heavy plunged 11.16 percent by the end of the day following a statement from the South Korean government about tackling corporates saddled with debt, Reuters reported.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 tacked on 0.28 percent to end at 5,994.37 as energy-related plays rose on the back of oil prices mostly holding steady after gaining more than 1 percent overnight. Oil Search gained 0.97 percent, Beach Energy added 5.29 percent and Santos edged up 0.81 percent by the end of the day. Banks recorded gains while major miners closed mixed.

Greater China markets went higher in afternoon trade. Hong Kong's rose 1.32 percent by 3:10 p.m. HK/SIN as financial and most property stocks climbed. Technology stocks led gains on the broader index, climbing 3.57 percent at 3:13 p.m. HK/SIN, with AAC Technologies up 5.1 percent at that time.

Tech was also one of the best-performing sectors on the mainland, where consumer stocks also recorded gains. The tacked on 0.55 percent to close at 3,290.17 and the Shenzhen Composite advanced 1.24 percent to end at 1,891.51.

Trade data released on Friday handily beat forecasts. Chinese exports in dollar terms increased 12.3 percent in November compared to one year ago, surpassing the 5 percent forecast in a Reuters poll. Meanwhile, dollar-denominated imports for the month increased 17.7 percent, above the 11.3 percent rise projected.

The lead up

Tax reform was in focus on Wall Street as investors anticipated potentially lower corporate taxes ahead. The Senate avoided a potential government shut-down when it passed a bill to extend funding for the federal government on Thursday.

A top Republican indicated on Thursday that the GOP's final tax bill could see certain deductions being adjusted. A joint tax bill now has to be ironed out after the House and Senate earlier passed separate versions.

U.S. stocks ended higher on Thursday as tech shares notched gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 70.57 points, or 0.29 percent, to close at 24,211.48.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six major currencies, extended overnight gains to trade at 93.910 after climbing in the three days prior.

Meanwhile, bitcoin soared above $19,000 on Thursday on the Coinbase exchange, but later tumbled some 20 percent from that level. The cryptocurrency, which started the year under $1,000, has experienced massive moves in recent days.

Currency watch

The Australian dollar was little changed after taking a hit following the release of poorer-than-expected trade data on Thursday. At 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN, the Aussie dollar traded at $0.7507, after falling as low as $0.7498 earlier. The currency was little changed by expectation-topping China trade data.

The was also in focus after the U.K. and European Union agreed on major issues that had been holding up Brexit talks. Sterling traded at $1.3509 after seesawing on the news. That compared to Thursday's close of $1.3474.

Corporate news

HNA Group on Friday said it was not selling its assets "blindly," Reuters reported. Zhao Quan, the head of the company's tourism unit, also rejected concerns that the company was facing a "liquidity crisis," Reuters said. Hong Kong-listed HNA Holding declined 1.47 percent by 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN while the company's mainland-listed units were narrowly mixed: Shares of Hainan Airline closed up 0.31 percent and HNA Investment was higher by 0.87 percent.

LG Display said "nothing has been set in detail" regarding a deal which would see the South Korean company supply OLED panels to Apple. The panel maker added that it would make an announcement about any developments "in a month," according to local media. LG Display shares erased early gains to close down 0.84 percent.

Elsewhere, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said it would be investing approximately $20 billion in its latest planned plant, Reuters said. The new chip plant will reportedly be focused on 3 nanometer technology. TSMC shares finished the session 0.22 percent higher.

The commodities trade

Oil prices were a touch softer after rising more than 1 percent overnight. U.S. crude futures lost 0.23 percent to trade at $56.56 per barrel. Brent crude was off 0.21 percent at $62.07.

Also of note was a possible disruption in Nigeria after one of the country's main oil unions warned it could go on strike after an alleged "mass sacking," Reuters reported on Thursday.