You are here

Asia: Stocks mixed, US dollar surrenders some gains as investors remain cautious


[SINGAPORE] Asian stocks were mixed on Friday, while the US dollar surrendered some of the overnight gains it made on strong economic data amid ongoing political turbulence around US President Donald Trump.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.1 per cent, on track for a weekly loss of 0.5 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei reversed early gains to trade 0.15 per cent lower, extending declines for the week to 1.8 per cent for the week.

Chinese shares added 0.1 per cent, up 0.4 per cent for the week. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.2 per cent, set for a weekly rise of 0.1 per cent.

Market voices on:

"The trend we have seen with Asian markets this morning has been one of mixed performances," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

"While US markets managed to stage a moderate recovery with investors finding good entry points after the heavy sell-off, Asian investors are likely choosing to err on the cautious side, especially with multiple event risks in the week ahead."

These events included testimony by former FBI director James Comey at a Senate hearing and an Opec meeting in Vienna, she added.

Mr Trump's dismissal of Mr Comey last week set off a political firestorm that culminated on Wednesday in Wall Street's biggest sell-off in over eight months.

The Justice Department's appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to probe possible ties between Russia and Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign helped calm markets and lifted Wall Street on Thursday.

The Dow gained 0.3 per cent, the S&P was up 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq jumped 0.7 per cent.

"We could be just shaking off the jitters here. Yesterday, investors were really worried," said Janna Sampson, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

"Whatever the (investigation) result, people feel they might have confidence it's an accurate, unbiased result," she said.

MSCI's emerging markets index extended losses by 0.15 per cent on Friday.

It posted its lowest close in almost two weeks on Thursday, dragged down by an 8.8 per cent slump in Brazilian stocks, on a report that President Michel Temer supported an attempt to bribe a potential witness to remain silent in the country's biggest-ever graft probe.

The Brazilian real was fractionally weaker at 3.3685 per US dollar early on Friday, after plunging as much as 8.5 per cent to its lowest level since December on Thursday.

Strong economic indicators from the US helped lift the US dollar overnight, but it slipped back on Friday.

It weakened 0.25 per cent to 111.225 yen, erasing some of Thursday's 0.6 per cent gain, and was set for a 1.8 per cent fall over the week.

Data showed a sharp acceleration in factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region in May, and an unexpected drop in new applications for unemployment benefits.

The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was slightly lower at 97.824, after gaining 0.3 per cent on Thursday. It's set to end the week 1.4 per cent lower.

Sterling was little changed at US$1.2945.

On Thursday, it broke through US$1.30 for the first time in almost eight months after news of better-than-expected British retail sales growth helped ease concerns about the broader economy. But it fell back on technical selling to close 0.2 per cent lower.

The euro was little changed at US$1.11 on Friday. It touched a six-month high on Thursday but surrendered the gains as the US dollar advanced to close 0.5 per cent lower.

In commodities, oil prices continued their gains for the third straight session, set to post a 4 per cent rise, on optimism that producers will agree to rein in output for longer.

US crude futures hit a three-week high, and were last trading up 0.8 per cent to US$49.75 a barrel.

Global benchmark Brent was up 0.7 per cent at US$52.88, after touching a four-week high earlier in the session.

Gold inched higher, clawing back some of Thursday's losses. Spot gold added 0.25 per cent to US$1,249.84 an ounce, set to post a weekly gain of 1.7 per cent.