Asia Ends Week on Tepid Note After Mixed Earnings
Asian stock markets traded cautiously on Friday as investors digested a raft of regional corporate earnings and as attention turned to first-quarter U.S. GDP figures for signs of whether the rally on Wall Street can continue.
Hong Kong stocks outperformed for a second session to hit a fresh one-month high on earnings optimism.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed below the 13,900 level, Australia's S&P ASX 200 pared gains after hitting an earlier one-month high and Seoul's Kospi retreated from a two-week high. The Shanghai Composite lost 1 percent to dip below the 2,200 mark.
The Nikkei posted a weekly gain of 4.3 percent, making it Asia's best performing index this week.
The Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged at its Friday meeting, broadly in-line with expectations, after unveiling a blockbuster easing program earlier this month. The yen strengthened 0.5 percent on the news to trade at 98 per dollar.
Hong Kong Leads
The Hang Seng Index crossed the 22,500 level thanks to a rally in shares of China's "Big Four" lenders ahead of first-quarter results.
Bank of China rallied 1.4 percent after the nation's fourth-largest lender by assets posted an 8.2 percent rise in profits and shares of the world's biggest insurer by market value, China Life Insurance, jumped 1.5 percent after announcing a 79 percent increase in profits.
A mixed picture of corporate earnings kept the Nikkei below 14,000 while a bigger-than-expected fall in consumer prices also weighed.
Advantest led losses in the electric equipment makers as shares slumped nearly 8 percent after the chip-maker's operating profit fell below its own guidance. Fuji Electric tracked losses to fall 7 percent.
Japan's biggest cosmetics company Shiseido tanked 8 percent to be the worst-performing stock on the Nikkei after posting its first net loss in eight years.
Investors expect the declining yen to strengthen the pulse of corporate Japan. Most exporters generate the bulk of their revenue overseas so when the yen slides, it feeds into their bottom-line.
"We think the yen continues to retain its safe haven status. Yes, the yen has gone down but its because the stock market has not put the the yen to the test," said Ashraf Laidi, chief global strategist at City Index.
Miners Boost Sydney
Stellar gains in Australian gold miners lifted the benchmark index to a brief one-month high after prices of the yellow metal rose to its highest levels in a week.
Silver Lake Resources outperformed to surge 20 percent while Evolution Mining and Regis Resources rallied 10 percent each.
(Read More: From Rout to Rush - Gold Stages Quiet Rally)
Meanwhile, shares in GrainCorp jumped 8 percent after the crop handler agreed to a buyout offer from U.S-based agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland.
Friday's rally puts the benchmark index at a weekly gain of 3.4 percent.
Shanghai Airlines Weigh
Mainland shares were range bound at the 2,200 level for a third straight session as investors sold off airline stocks on fears that the bird flu outbreak would dampen air travel demand.
In Seoul, Samsung Electronics beat estimates to post a sixth straight quarter of profit growth. Still, the tech giant's shares dipped 0.5 percent.
Analysts say the news was not reflected in the share price as investors are awaiting sales figures for the new Galaxy smartphone, which will be launched on Saturday in the U.S., before buying into the stock.
POSCO shares fell 2 percent after the world's fourth-largest steelmaker by output, reported first quarter net profit fell by more than half.