Asia stocks kick off November with mostly positive results; Softbank dives more than 8 percent

  • The Greater China markets saw gains after an important economic indicator came in above expectations.
  • Stocks in Australia also posted an increase for the day.
  • Shares in Japan, on the other hand, closed lower with steep losses in the tech sector led by Softbank and Panasonic.

Shares in Asia were mainly higher in the first trading day of November trading after a roller coaster October rocked stocks in the region.

The Greater China markets saw gains, with the Shanghai composite advancing 0.13 percent to close at about 2,606.24 and the Shenzhen composite up by 0.934 percent to finish at around 1,306.31.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index traded 1.72 percent higher in afternoon action.

Those gains were supported by the Thursday morning report of the Caixin-IHS Markit October Purchasing Managers' index (PMI), which came in at 50.1 for October. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the reading to have dipped slightly to 49.9 from 50.0 in September. The survey covers small and medium-sized enterprises in the country, and a reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

Kudlow says 'nothing is set in stone' on China tariffs

Chinese economic data has been particularly in focus in recent months as the U.S.-China trade war continues to worry investors and businesses. On Wednesday, the country missed expectations with its official manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index — which covers large companies and state-owned enterprises — indicating that Chinese manufacturing growth has been weaker than anticipated.

In other trade war news, U.S. President Donald Trump's top economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Wednesday that "nothing is set in stone right now" on whether Washington will impose additional tariffs on Beijing.

Kudlow said "policy talks" will determine whether the White House imposes new duties, "not an arbitrary timeline." The National Economic Council director added that he would not spell out the specific demands Trump wants China to meet in order for him to reduce tariffs. But he noted that the president has repeatedly pushed for Beijing to address alleged intellectual property theft and barriers to U.S. imports.

Kudlow's comments came following reports that said Trump could implement more tariffs on China as the trade frictions escalate.

Other Asian markets mixed

Japan's Nikkei 225, however, fell by 1.06 percent to close at 21,687.65 while the Topix shed 0.85 percent to finish at 1,632.05. Tech giants were in focus, with shares of Panasonic plunging 5.64 percent and conglomerate Softbank diving 8.16 percent.

Dan Baker, an analyst at Morningstar, said Softbank's significant decline may be due to news about one of its Japanese telecom rivals lowering fees. Still, he added, Thursday's stock slip "seems like a big movement" given domestic telecommunications' "smaller contribution" to the company's overall value.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 shed much of its earlier gains but still ended the trading day up by 0.18 percent at 5,840.8. The materials sector advanced 1.28 percent, with shares of major miners posting gains: Rio Tinto was up 2.09 percent, Fortescue Metals advanced 2.75 percent and BHP Billiton jumped 2.79 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

The move in BHP's stock followed an announcement where the company said it plans to return $10.4 billion to its shareholders through the combination of an off-market buyback and a special dividend. BHP said it would target an off-market share buyback of $5.2 billion immediately and plans to pay the remainder of the proceeds from its onshore U.S. assets sale in the form of a special dividend.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Kospi reversed course to dip 0.26 percent at 2,024.46 by the closing bell.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.737 after seeing an earlier high of 97.115.

The Japanese yen was at 112.82 against the dollar after strengthening from levels around 113.3 in the previous session.

The Australian dollar was at $0.7142 from an earlier low of $0.7070. The moves in the Aussie dollar came after the country's trade surplus came in above expectations.

— CNBC's Mike Calia and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this story.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the Japanese yen strengthened against the dollar in the previous session.