Asian Shares Mostly Higher In Cautious Trade

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Friday as optimism over additional economy-boosting measures in major countries outweighed concerns about rising coronavirus infections and worsening tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Chinese shares ended on a flat note as Thursday’s better-than-expected GDP data fueled concerns that the pace of policy loosening will be slower. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index Inched up 0.1 percent to 3,214.13, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent to 25,089.17.

Japanese shares ended a tad lower as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 293 new cases of coronavirus infections, setting another single-day record and surpassing Thursday’s 286.

The Nikkei 225 Index slipped 73.94 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,696.42, while the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent lower at 1,573.85. Heavyweight Fast Retailing fell 1.3 percent, while SoftBank Group edged up slightly. Exporters ended broadly lower, with Honda Motor, Nissan and Canon losing 1-2 percent.

Australian markets fluctuated before finishing modestly higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 22.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,033.60 despite surging coronavirus cases in Victoria. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 21.90 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,144.90.

Mining giant Rio Tinto gained 0.6 percent after releasing its second quarter production results. Rival BHP rose 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals Group advanced 1.7 percent.

BlueScope Steel dropped 1.3 percent after flagging a hit in second-half earnings. Gold miners Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources added 2.4 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively as gold steadied near $1,800 per ounce on virus worries.

In the oil sector, Origin Energy rose half a percent and Santos gained 1.7 percent, while Oil Search declined 1.6 percent.

Seoul stocks closed higher on hopes for large-scale stimulus measures in Europe and the United States. The U.S. Senate is expected to roll out a virus relief package worth $1 trillion next week, while European Union leaders are meeting today to agree on a 750-billion-euro recovery fund.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank kept its emergency coronavirus stimulus program unchanged. The benchmark Kospi ended up 17.43 points, or 0.80 percent, at 2,201.19.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 1.1 percent and leading pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics added 1.5 percent. Automaker Hyundai Motor soared 6.8 percent and its affiliate Kia Motors surged 4.3 percent.

New Zealand shares recovered from a weak start to close higher after a survey showed manufacturing activity in the country swung to expansion territory in June after three months of contraction. The benchmark NZX 50 Index rose 78.99 points, or 0.7 percent, to 11,584.05.

U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as investors reacted to mixed corporate earnings, elevated jobless claims figures and rising U.S.-China tensions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped half a percent to snap a four-day winning streak, the S&P 500 eased 0.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.7 percent.

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