Asia Markets

Asian traded mixed; Chinese mainland markets decline more than 1%

Key Points
  • Asia traded mixed as Chinese mainland markets declined more than 1 percent.
  • South Korean electronics giant Samsung announced record profits for the first quarter.
  • The greenback traded above the 91 level and was supported by the upward climb in U.S. bond yields, according to one strategist.
  • Oil prices were higher as traders focused on geopolitical developments.

Asia markets were mixed on Thursday, following modest gains on Wall Street, where the Dow closed higher for the first time in six sessions.

In Japan, the added 104.29 points, or 0.47 percent, to 22,319.61, while the Topix gained 4.4 points, or 0.25 percent, to 1,772.13. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi rose 26.83 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,475.64.

Chinese mainland markets ended the session lower. The fell 42.12 points, or 1.35 percent, to 3,075.85 and the Shenzhen composite was off by 38.85 points, or 2.14 percent, to 1,770.40.

Hong Kong's slid 1.29 percent in afternoon trade.

In Australia, the ASX 200 fell 10.8 points, or 0.18 percent, to 5,910.80 after the market was closed on Wednesday for a public holiday.

The heavily weighted financial sector was down 1.77 percent and major banking stocks fell — shares of Westpac fell 3.6 percent while ANZ was down 2.14 percent, Commonwealth Bank was down 1.65 percent and the National Australia Bank lost 2.1 percent.

In earnings news, South Korean tech giant Samsung announced first quarter results. The largest smartphone vendor posted an operating profit of 15.64 trillion Korean won ($14.45 billion) for the three months ended March — in line with an earlier estimate and a 58 percent on-year jump.

Samsung's consolidated revenue came in at 60.56 trillion won. The company said its first-quarter revenue was mainly driven by its memory chips business and the increased sales of its flagship smartphones such as the Galaxy S9.

Samsung shares rose 3.45 percent, beating the broader Kospi index.

In other earnings news, Japanese game maker Nintendo said it expected operating profit to rise 26.7 percent in the year through March to a nine-year high, according to Reuters. Nintendo's Switch games console maintained sales momentum in its second year, the news wire reported.

Nintendo estimated profit to reach 225 billion yen ($2.06 billion) from 177.56 billion yen a year earlier, Reuters added.

The announcement came after the Tokyo market closed. For the Thursday session, Nintendo shares were down 2.03 percent.

Overnight, U.S. government debt yields continued their upward climb with the rate on the 10-year Treasury note edging above the 3 percent it hit Tuesday for the first time since 2014.

"This has supported a further rise in the U.S. dollar with the narrow [dollar index] now above 91 and so above the range in which it has been confined since mid-January," Ray Attrill, head of foreign-exchange strategy at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

The measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies. It traded at 91.139 as of 3:11 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from levels below 90.600 earlier in the week.

Elsewhere, the Japanese yen traded at 109.26 against the dollar, weakening from levels below 108.0 reached in the previous week. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7570 while the euro fetched $1.2177.

Oil rose overnight despite data showing a rise in U.S. inventories as traders turned their attention toward geopolitical developments.

"Oil prices rose as traders focused on French President [Emmanuel] Macron's attempts to broker a new nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran," David Plank from ANZ Research wrote in a morning note.

U.S. crude gained 0.2 percent to $68.19 a barrel at 3:13 p.m. HK/SIN while global benchmark Brent added 0.38 percent to $74.28.