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Stocks in Asia mixed; Softbank shares soar more than 17 percent

Key Points
  • Stocks in Australia gained while Japan slipped on the day.
  • Shares of Japanese conglomerate Softbank Group surged more than 17 percent.
  • Meanwhile, on the U.S.-China trade front, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that he was headed to China next week along with a delegation from Washington.

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Thursday, with U.S.-China trade hopes up as negotiations are set to continue.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.59 percent to close at 20,751.28 while the Topix declined 0.83 percent to finish its trading day at 1,569.03 as shares of Fast Retailing fell by 2.70 percent. Softbank Group soared 17.73 percent, on the back of its announcement on Wednesday that it would purchase up to 600 billion yen ($5.46 billion) of stock in its largest ever buyback.

Australia's ASX 200 rose 1.1 percent to close at 6,092.50, with almost all sectors higher. The heavily weighted financial subindex rose 1.75 percent as shares of the country's so-called Big Four Banks advanced. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gained 1.70 percent, Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced 2.01 percent, Westpac rose 1.93 percent and National Australia Bank climbed up by 1.26 percent.

South Korea's Kospi closed largely flat at 2,203.42, with shares of chipmaker SK Hynix jumping 1.05 percent.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Mnuchin describes trade talks as 'very productive'

Meanwhile, on the U.S.-China trade front, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that he was headed to China next week along with a delegation from Washington for more negotiations.

"We are committed to continue these talks," Mnuchin said. "We're putting in an enormous amount of effort to hit this deadline and get a deal. That's our objective."

Mnuchin also described the recent meetings with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He as "very productive." His comments came as the two largest economies in the world are attempting to strike a deal before a deadline in early March, amid an ongoing trade dispute.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.421 after seeing lows around 96.0 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.96 against the dollar after seeing highs around 109.54 in the previous session.

The Australian dollar was at $0.7103 after slipping sharply from highs below $0.725 yesterday. The decline came on the back of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe's speech on Wednesday.

"Looking forward, there are scenarios where the next move in the cash rate is up and other scenarios where it is down. Over the past year, the next-move-is-up scenarios were more likely than the next-move-is-down scenarios. Today, the probabilities appear to be more evenly balanced," Lowe said.

"The Australian dollar is set to depreciate below 0.70 as the Reserve Bank of Australia no longer views the next move in rates as up only," strategists at DBS Group Research said in a morning note.

"In adopting a "more evenly balanced" stance, the RBA has opened the door for a rate cut if increased global risks and the weaker housing market forces more downgrades in its sanguine growth/inflation outlook. Effectively, this has offset the Fed's patience stance that lifted the Oz in January. Our mid-year target for AUD/USD remains unchanged at 0.66," they said.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Reuters contributed to this report.