Asia stocks mixed; pound struggles following fresh Brexit uncertainties

  • Asia markets were mixed on Friday following fresh uncertainties emerging from the U.K. overnight after multiple important ministers resigned from Prime Minister Theresa May's government.
  • A number of ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, resigned.
  • U.S. stocks appeared to be driven overnight by a report said that the U.S. and China have doubled down on efforts to reach an agreement in the growing trade war, at the Group of 20 meeting later this month.

It was a mixed picture for markets in Asia on Friday, on the back of fresh uncertainties emerging from the U.K. overnight after multiple important ministers resigned from Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

The mainland Chinese markets, which have been closely watched amid the ongoing trade spat between Washington and Beijing, recovered from earlier losses to see gains on the day. The Shanghai composite was up 0.41 percent to close at around 2,679.11 and the Shenzhen composite rose 0.843 percent to finish at about 1,410.18.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 0.12 percent in the final hour of afternoon trade.

In Australia, the ASX 200 fell slightly to close at 5,730.6, with the sectors finishing mostly lower.

Stocks in Japan struggled for gains. The Nikkei 225 slipped 0.57 percent to close at 21,680.34 while the Topix index shed 0.59 percent to end the trading day at 1,629.30. Shares of game maker Nintendo fell 9.1 percent.

Shares of semiconductor companies in Japan took a hit on the back of yesterday's plunge in Nvidia's stock stateside after it missed both revenue and guidance. Tokyo Electron, which manufactures semiconductor equipment, was down 4.26 percent while manufacturer Advantest fell 7.56 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.21 percent to close at 2,092.4.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
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%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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May defends draft Brexit plan

The U.K. was thrust into political turmoil on Thursday following a spate of resignations from Prime Minister Theresa May's government, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who said he couldn't accept the deal after the promises the ruling Conservative Party made to the country in an election manifesto last year.

Speaking from inside 10 Downing Street on Thursday evening, the prime minister said: "I want to honor the vote the of the referendum," she said.

At least 16 members of her own Conservative Party have openly called for a vote of no confidence in May, citing dissatisfaction with her proposals to leave the European Union.

One strategist warned about the outlook of the Brexit deal.

"At this stage, it will be almost impossible for the deal to be approved by Parliament because the concerns raised by Raab are issues shared by many members of the government," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in an overnight note.

"This is not only a major setback for Brexit, but (Member of Parliament) Rees-Mogg's call for a no confidence vote could also spell the end of May's role as Prime Minister," she said, in reference to notable Euroskeptic lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The British pound plunged to $1.2833 from about $1.2994 at around 9:00 a.m. London time on Thursday, following news of Raab's resignation. The pound traded at about $1.2796 on Friday afternoon during Asian hours.

US-China trade hopes

In overnight market action on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 208.77 points to close at 25,289.27 and the S&P 500 advanced more than 1 percent to close at 2,730.2. The Nasdaq Composite also rose 1.7 percent to close at 7,259.03.

The positive sentiment for stocks stateside appeared to be driven by a report that the U.S. and China have doubled down on efforts to reach an agreement on trade ahead of the Group of 20 meeting later this month.

One person familiar with the situation told the Financial Times that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has already informed some industry executives the next wave of tariffs was already on hold.

However, stocks fell from their highs after a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative told CNBC "the plan for the tariffs as covered in the Federal Register Notice dated Sept. 21, 2018 has not changed at all. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect."

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.867 after seeing an earlier high of 97.059.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, was at 113.28 against the dollar after seeing highs around the 113.1 handle in the previous session. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7277 after touching an earlier high of $0.7288.

— CNBC's David Reid, Fred Imbert and Spriha Srivastava contributed to this report.