Asian markets close cautiously mixed ahead of expected US tariffs

  • Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday.
  • Australian stocks outperformed their peers, with financials leading gains.
  • Investors were cautious ahead of U.S. tariffs on China that the White House is expected to announce on Friday.
  • The euro was on the back foot after the ECB said it would halve its bond-buying program in the last quarter of the year.

Asian markets closed mixed on Friday as investors awaited developments on the trade front ahead of the expected unveiling of U.S. tariffs targeting China while the euro remained downbeat.

The Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent, or 113.14 points, to close at 22,851.75, paring some of its more than 200-point decline in the last session. Oil-related names were higher, with the Topix oil and coal products subindex up 2.25 percent. Pharmaceuticals stocks also gained, climbing 1.83 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi declined 0.8 percent to finish at 2,404.04, extending declines made during Thursday's sell-off. Financials fell, while retailers advanced slightly. Among blue chips, Samsung Electronics fell 1.14 percent and Posco dropped 1.22 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.29 percent to 6,094, outperforming other major markets in the region. The heavily weighted financials subindex rose 1.89 percent, leading gains on the index.

Investors in greater China, meanwhile, braced for tariffs the Trump administration is expected to unveil during U.S. hours on Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index saw slim declines, slipping by 0.15 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN.

Mainland markets took a hit: The benchmark Shanghai composite declined 0.7 percent to close at 3,022.93, but was off its intraday low. The smaller Shenzhen composite fell 1.76 percent to end at 1,691.65.

MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Asia dipped 0.29 percent in Asia afternoon trade. Markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were closed on Friday.

Trade back in spotlight after ECB

Trade was back in the spotlight, with the White House expected to unveil a revised list of between 800 and 900 products from China it will impose tariffs on, sources told CNBC.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce "pretty significant action" in tariffs on Chinese goods worth $50 billion, Reuters reported. China has pledged a swift response if the latter proceeded with rolling out threatened tariffs.

"There's going to be a reaction, it's almost inevitable ... We're going to see a slowdown in global economic growth and trade as a result of that, that's inevitable," Uwe Parpart, chief strategist at Capital Link International, told CNBC's "Capital Connection."

"Growth, at this point, is not going to reach the levels that had been expected earlier this year," he added.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank indicated plans to wind down its quantitative easing program. The ECB said its current 30 billion euros in monthly purchases would be halved in the last quarter of the year. In addition, the central bank indicated that a rate hike would be unlikely before summer 2019.

"After recent almost hawkish remarks from ECB Chief Economist Praet, the market was hoping for more and [was] disappointed," David de Garis, director of economics at National Australia Bank, said in a note.

The euro was on the back foot on Friday. It had tanked after the ECB outlined its QE plans, falling to trade at the $1.15 handle from levels above $1.18 seen before the central bank's announcement. The common currency traded at $1.1563 at 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN.

The dollar, meanwhile, held onto broad gains against other currencies made overnight, with the dollar index last at 94.974. Against the yen, the greenback was mostly steady at 110.72.

Also on central bank watch, the Bank of Japan on Friday said it would maintain its monetary policy, which was in line with market expectations. The central bank also downgraded its inflation views.

That rounded up a week that had been full of central bank meetings, with the Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaling that two more rate hikes, rather than one, were likely by the end of this year.

"Major central banks [are] slowly taking away the punch bowls but it's very gradual and there is still lots of punch around," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital, said in a note.

The gains in Asian markets also came on the back of U.S. stocks advancing on Thursday amid a flurry of dealmaking news, with the Nasdaq composite rising 0.85 percent to notch a record close of 7,761.04.

On the energy front, Brent crude futures were little changed at $75.92 per barrel amid the stronger dollar. U.S. West Texas intermediate crude added 0.07 percent to trade at $66.94.