Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trading

Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday as weak U.S. data released overnight as well as renewed concerns about rising inflation dented hopes of a swifter economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mainland Chinese markets recovered from an early slide to end higher. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 20.81 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,696.17, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.2 percent higher at 30,644.73.

Japanese shares fell for the third straight day, with a firmer yen and rising bond yields weighing on markets. Investors also digested official data showing that Japan’s consumer prices dropped at a slower pace in January, reflecting the end of the ‘Go To’ travel scheme by the government.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 218.17 points, or 0.7 percent, to 30,017.92, while the broader Topix closed 0.7 percent lower at 1,928.95.

Sharp Corp, plunged 7 percent and Inpex gave up 4.2 percent. Tech stocks bucked the weak trend, with Advantest climbing 3.3 percent and Tokyo Electron adding 1.5 percent.

Australian markets tumbled as investors reacted to mixed earnings results and news that Victoria has recorded three coronavirus cases after emerging from lockdown. There was also disappointment on the data front, with retail sales rising less than expected in January.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 92.10 points, or 1.3 percent, to finish at 6,793.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 91.50 points, or 1.3 percent, at 7,064.

Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto dropped 3-4 percent, while oil majors Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos tumbled 3-5 percent.

Lender ANZ rose slightly after reporting a sharp rise in quarterly profit, while the other three banks fell 1-2 percent. Gold miner Newcrest rose half a percent as gold prices snapped a four-session losing streak to close higher.

Shares of Inghams Group jumped 3.6 percent after the poultry producer said its first-half profit rose 34 percent.

Seoul stocks fluctuated before ending notably higher. The benchmark Kospi rose 20.96 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,107.62 despite woes over a virus resurgence and rising U.S. Treasury yields.

South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases fell back below 600, but health authorities warned that a resurgence in cases may occur, given a series of cluster infections at workplaces and hospitals.

South Korea’s producer prices increased 0.8 percent year-on-year in January following a 0.2 percent rise in December, central bank data showed earlier in the day.

New Zealand shares ended notably lower amid a global sell-off. The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 84.97 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,548.63.

High dividend yielding stocks succumbed to selling pressure as investors priced in rising bond yields. Electricity generator Meridian Energy lost 4 percent and retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare slumped 4.4 percent.

U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as Walmart warned of slowing sales growth and data showed an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims and a drop in housing starts for the first time in five months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 dropped around 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.7 percent.

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