Asia Markets

Asian stocks mixed after US gains; many markets closed for Lunar New Year

Key Points
  • Many Asian markets are shut for the Lunar New Year holiday on Friday, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.
  • Overnight, U.S. stocks extended their winning streak to five days.

Asian equities ended mixed on the last day of the week, but trading in the region was subdued with many markets shut for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Gains on Wall Street provided an initial bounce to regional markets. Major U.S. indexes extended their winning streak to five days on Thursday, with the and S&P 500 breaking above their 50-day moving averages as bond yields hit fresh multiyear highs.

On the U.S. data front, jobless claims increased by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 230,000, rebounding from a near 45-year low. The producer price index, meanwhile, rose 0.4 percent in January, in line with expectations.

Over in Asia, activity was lower than normal with markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam closed.

Japan's benchmark rallied 1.19 percent, notching a weekly gain of 1.58 percent. Utilities were among the biggest gainers, with Kansai Electric Power ending 5.89 percent higher and Chubu Electric Power rising 6.52 percent.

Used-car dealer Idom soared 2.37 percent on news that it is partnering with Uber in Africa.

Beer manufacturer Sapporo Holdings slumped 2.81 percent after reporting a 16 percent drop in 2017 operating profit.

In wobbly trade, the yen hit a new 15-month high at 105.54 per dollar, extending gains for a second straight day.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration reappointed Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda for another five-year term in an indication that the country's stimulus policy will stay the course.

Australia's benchmark ASX 200 reversed earlier gains to close slightly lower, weighed down by manganese miner South32. The stock slid 5.1 percent despite reporting strong first-half profit numbers on Thursday.

Health-care stocks led the gains on the ASX 200. Private hospital operator Healthscope jumped 6.46 percent on hopes of a potential sale of its Asian pathology business.

The Reserve Bank of Australia plans to leave interest rates at their current record lows for a while, Governor Philip Lowe said on Friday, adding that he hoped for gradual improvement in the unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar hit a new two-week high of $0.7969, extending gains into a second session.