Asia Markets

Most Asian stocks edge up as the dollar pares some gains; Takeda falls 7.5%

Key Points
  • Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Thursday.
  • Several regional markets shrugged off weakness seen overnight on Wall Street.
  • Japan's Nikkei 225 closed higher after rebounding late in the session.
  • The dollar slightly pared some its overnight gains against the yen.

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Thursday, as several regional markets shrugged off weakness seen overnight on Wall Street.

Japan's benchmark closed up 0.61 percent, or 127.77 points, at 21,159.08 after rebounding late in the day. The index had dipped below the flat line in the afternoon after trading more than 1 percent higher early in the session.

The broader Topix retraced earlier gains to edge higher by 0.26 percent as consumer stocks recorded overall gains.

Despite the broader gains, the pharmaceuticals sector declined as shares of Takeda Pharmaceutical dropped 7.45 percent. The Japanese company said Wednesday that it was at "a preliminary and exploratory stage" regarding a possible bid for U.K. drugmaker Shire.

Elsewhere, the Kospi tacked on 0.71 percent to end at 2,436.37 as losses in automakers and shipmakers were offset by gains in steelmakers and banks. Large cap Samsung Electronics rose 0.7 percent.

Hong Kong's was up 0.36 percent by 3:34 p.m. HK/SIN.

The technology sector remained under pressure before the market close, lagging the broader index. By 3:34 p.m. HK/SIN, heavyweight Tencent traded flat and Apple supplier AAC Technologies was down 0.56 percent after Apple declined in U.S. trade amid a sell-off seen in tech names.

On the mainland, the rose 1.24 percent to close at 3,160.93 and the smaller Shenzhen composite added 0.98 percent to finish at 1,830.09. The large cap CSI 300 index advanced 1.35 percent as mainland banks and insurers notched gains.

Down Under, the ASX 200 shed 0.52 percent to close at 5,759.40, paring slim gains seen earlier in the morning. The materials sector and gold producers lagged the broader market, declining 1.1 percent and 1.87 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was up 0.2 percent by 3:36 p.m. HK/SIN.

Markets in India were closed on Thursday.

Tech, trade and North Korea

U.S. technology stocks fell on Wednesday, with Amazon, Netflix and Apple losing 4.4 percent, 5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. The declines saw the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite close down 0.85 percent.

Technology shares stumbled earlier in the week, bringing an end to a brief rally in markets linked to an apparent easing in trade tensions.

Trade issues also continued to simmer as global markets watched for developments in U.S.-China trade ties after President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum earlier this month that could put tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese goods.

China was still weighing the possibility of imposing curbs on U.S. soybean imports, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, U.S. government debt yields slipped as investors turned to traditionally safer assets. That yield on the 10-year Treasury note stood at 2.78 percent on Thursday after touching its lowest levels in seven weeks in the last session. (Bond yields move inversely to their prices.)

"Uncertainty about trade discussions and end-quarter buying supported fixed income across the board," said ANZ Research analysts in a morning note.

Investors also took note of developments ahead of potential talks between the U.S. and North Korea after China confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for talks.

China said on Wednesday that North Korea has agreed to denuclearize, although the latter has not publicly commented on the matter.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six peers, stood at 89.980 at 2:46 p.m. HK/SIN, slipping from a one-week high touched overnight.

Against the yen, the greenback pared some of its overnight gains to trade at 106.66, compared to a high of 106.92 seen earlier. The dollar traded at levels around the 105 handle at the beginning of the week.

The moves in the yen come as month-end, quarter-end, as well as year-end for many Japanese corporates flows were also figuring in foreign exchange moves, Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, said in a note.

On the data front, retail sales in Japan increased 1.6 percent in February compared to one year ago, slightly missing a forecast of a 1.7 percent rise, Reuters reported.