Asia Markets

Asian stocks close mixed as dollar wobbles following overnight gains

Key Points
  • Asian markets finished mixed on Friday, with the Hang Seng Index outperforming regional indexes ahead of the market close in Hong Kong
  • The dollar wobbled after gaining overnight following comments from President Donald Trump about dollar strength
  • Japan consumer prices in December were stable

Asian markets closed mixed on Friday as the dollar wobbled after gaining overnight following comments from President Donald Trump.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index gave back morning gains to close lower by 0.16 percent, or 37.61 points, at 23,631.88. Major exporters finished the session mixed while financial names largely declined. Fanuc Manufacturing closed higher by 0.3 percent.

Automakers were a mixed picture. Toyota rose 0.18 percent and Honda closed lower by 0.23 percent. Suzuki Motor fell 3.51 percent after Maruti Suzuki India announced quarterly profit that was below expectations, according to Reuters.

Data released Friday showed December consumer prices in Japan were stable. The core consumer price index increased 0.9 percent in December compared to one year ago, a figure that was in line with expectations, Reuters said. Excluding food and energy, prices rose 0.3 percent last month.

Retailers were mixed, with Fast Retailing advancing 0.39 percent by the end of the day.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi reversed slight losses to end higher by 0.49 percent at 2,574.76.

Tech stocks traded mixed: Samsung Electronics rose 1.03 percent while SK Hynix slipped 0.4 percent by the end of the day, giving up some of the gains made after it announced record-high quarterly profit on Thursday.

Automakers were broadly lower after Hyundai Motor reported a fall in annual operating income on Thursday. Hyundai Motor declined 3.79 percent and affiliate Kia Motors lost 1.18 percent by the end of the session.

Hong Kong's jumped 1.51 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN after snapping a seven-day winning streak on Thursday. Gains in large cap financials drove the broader index higher on the day, with China Construction Bank gaining 5.37 percent ahead of the market close. Tech heavyweight Tencent rose 2.36 percent.

Property developers also notched gains during the session: Country Garden jumped 2.55 percent and Henderson Land rose 3.68 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN.

The edged up 0.3 percent to close at 3,559.09 and the Shenzhen composite finished the session 0.16 percent lower. The blue chip CSI 300 index was up 0.39 percent by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, data released earlier showed profits made by industrial companies in the country grew 10.8 percent last month compared to one year ago, Reuters said.

Markets in Australia and India were closed for Australia Day and Republic Day, respectively.

Dollar wobbles after overnight bounce

The dollar was slightly pressured after edging higher overnight on comments from Trump that he "ultimately" wanted a strong dollar. He added that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's comments about the currency had been "taken out of context."

Mnuchin's Wednesday comments about a weaker dollar being good for trade saw the currency plunge to a three-year low earlier in the week.

At 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major currencies, traded at 89.029, below Thursday's close of 89.461.

Against the yen, the dollar edged down to trade at 109.18.

The trend of weakness in the dollar will continue "for the time being," Nate Thooft, global head of asset allocation at Manulife Asset Management, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"I don't think many central bankers are getting the focus they once were because people believe that the end is coming closer and closer to ... super-accommodative policy," Thooft added.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the session at a record, with markets focused on upbeat corporate earnings releases. Around 78 percent of S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly earnings have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

On the economic front, the European Central Bank on Thursday kept monetary policy steady, with ECB President Mario Draghi highlighting solid growth in the bloc.

The euro last traded at $1.2447 after notching a fresh three-year high against the dollar overnight.

Corporate news

Japan's Fujitsu is in talks about selling its mobile phone unit to Polaris Capital, but no decision had been made yet, Reuters reported on Friday. An agreement, worth as much as 50 billion yen ($456 million), could be due at the end of January, local media said. Fujitsu shares closed up 1.21 percent, outperforming most other Japanese tech shares.

Meanwhile, shares of South Korean department store chain Shinsegae and E-Mart, its discount chain affiliate, surged 9.84 percent and 15.04 percent, respectively. The bounce came after news that the companies had signed a memorandum of understanding for more than 1 trillion won ($940 million) in investment for an online business spin-off, according to a translation of a filing.