Asian stocks take a breather after days of declines

  • The mainland Chinese markets ended the trading day largely flat.
  • Stocks in Japan, South Korea and Australia saw gains on the day.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Federal Reserve is considering whether to signal a wait-and-see approach to rate hikes at its upcoming meeting this month.
  • Following a closely watched OPEC meeting in Vienna on Thursday, the cartel reportedly agreed to decrease oil production but did not specify the exact number of barrels it aimed to bring off the market.

Shares in Asia were mostly higher on Friday on the back of a report suggesting the U.S. Federal Reserve could consider a slower tempo of increasing interest rates than had been previously expected.

The hard-hit mainland Chinese markets ended the trading day mostly unchanged, with both the Shanghai composite and the Shenzhen composite largely flat at around 2,605.89 and about 1,350.70, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong traded down by around 0.1 percent as of its final hour of trade.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.82 percent to close at 21,678.68 while the Topix index gained 0.61 percent to finish the trading week at 1,620.45.

Shares of Softbank, which saw significant declines in the previous trading day, extended losses as it fell 2.09 percent on the day. The company had earlier announced that there was no change in its earnings and dividend forecasts after a mobile service outage on Thursday.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi gained 0.34 percent to close at 2,075.76, with shares of chipmaker SK Hynix rising 1.21 percent.

The ASX 200 in Australia rose 0.42 percent to close at 5,681.50, with almost sectors in positive territory. That was a rebound from Thursday, when the index saw declines amid a broader sell-off across the Asia Pacific region.

Shares of Australia's so-called Big Four banks saw gains on the day. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.16 percent, Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 1.00 percent while Westpac advanced 0.23 percent and National Australia Bank climbed up by 0.25 percent.

Fed may slow pace of rate hikes

In overnight market action on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed just 79.40 lower at 24,947.67 after dropping nearly 800 points earlier in the session. The S&P 500 slipped 0.15 percent to close at 2,695.95 while the Nasdaq Composite recovered from its intraday losses to end the trading day 0.4 higher at 7,188.26.

That stateside recovery from stocks' session lows came on the back of a report that the U.S. Federal Reserve could hike interest rates at a slower pace than previously expected. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the U.S. central bank is considering whether to signal a wait-and-see approach to rate hikes at its upcoming meeting this month. The report said Fed officials do not know what their next move on rates will be after December.

As a part of the Fed's emerging "data dependent" plan, it could choose to pause the regular quarter-point increases to the federal funds rates and not hike in March, the Journal reported Thursday. Federal Open Market Committee officials — who vote on whether to change the rate — have been raising the rate about once per quarter for the past two years.

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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Bolton 'knew in advance' about Huawei CFO arrest

Part of the broad decline in Asian stocks on Thursday was attributed to news of the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada. That especially was thought to have hit tech stocks in the region.

Investors will also be keeping an eye on any developments in Meng's case — she is said to face extradition to the U.S.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Thursday that he "knew in advance" about the arrest, although President Donald Trump was reportedly not in the know about the plan.

Huawei is one of the largest mobile phone makers in the world and the company has come under pressure from Washington. It faces a restriction on selling telecoms equipment in the U.S. due to what American officials describe as national security concerns.

In a letter to suppliers late Thursday, Huawei said the U.S. seeks the extradition of Meng to "face unspecified charges in the Eastern District of New York."

"We believe it is unreasonable of the U.S. government to use these sorts of approaches to exert pressure on a business entity. They are against the spirit of free economy and fair competition," the company said in its letter.

Beyond just potentially influencing the technology space, the arrest may also have implications for the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. News of Meng's arrest comes after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed last weekend to hold off on implementing additional tariffs on each other's goods.

OPEC doesn't commit to a number on production cuts

Following a closely watched OPEC meeting in Vienna on Thursday, the cartel reportedly agreed to decrease oil production but did not specify the exact number of barrels it aimed to bring off the market.

OPEC has agreed in principle to reduce its output, two sources told Reuters on Thursday. However, OPEC delayed making a decision on how deeply it would cut production until after it meets with Russia on Friday. With few details to offer journalists, OPEC canceled a scheduled press conference.

One analyst told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Friday that he was "pessimistic" about a deal being reached.

"I think Saudi Arabia is intentionally playing coy here," said Stephen Schork, editor at The Schork Report, adding that the kingdom was "throwing out numbers" of a proposed production cut of 900,000 or 1 million barrels per day despite "knowing full well" going into the meeting that the market was expecting cuts of between 1.5 and 2 million bpd.

Schork said the Saudis were "clearly sending out an intention" to Russia that it was "willing to tank the market lower" if Moscow didn't "play along."

"(It's) a dangerous game of cat and mouse right now and given the rhetoric that's coming out of Saudi Arabia, I am not optimistic we will see any sort of a meaningful deal come tomorrow," he said.

The much-anticipated meeting comes at a time when the oil market is near the bottom of its worst price plunge since the 2008 financial crisis. Oil prices have crashed around 30 percent over the last two months, ratcheting up the pressure on budgets in oil-exporting countries.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trade on the back of those developments.

The global benchmark Brent crude futures contract declined by 0.87 percent to $59.54 per barrel while U.S. crude futures slipped 0.87 percent to $51.04 per barrel.

Shares of oil-related companies in the Asia Pacific region were also mostly lower.

Australia's Santos fell 0.53 percent and Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.65 percent. Over in Japan, Inpex fell 1.13 percent and JXTG declined by 2.56 percent while Fuji Oil rose 1.52 percent. South Korea's S-Oil shed 0.46 percent and China's PetroChina slipped 0.39 percent.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.873 after touching an earlier low of 96.768.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 112.80 after a turbulent session yesterday which saw it touching highs around the 112.3 handle. The Australian dollar was at $0.7216 after seeing an earlier high of $0.7242.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert ,Thomas Franck, Sam Meredith and Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.