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Asian Stocks Pare Early Losses
(RTTNews.com) - Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Friday, as investors remained apprehensive of Fed action at its policy meeting next week. Bargain hunters emerged after recent selloff, capping the downside to a large extent.
Japan's Nikkei index snapped a three-day losing streak to end 0.4 percent higher at 15,403, with sentiment underpinned by a weaker yen. The Japanese currency hit its lowest level against the greenback in over five years amid Fed tapering speculation and after Japan's cabinet approved a $53 billion stimulus package for the current fiscal year to help support growth and cushion the impact of a planned sales tax hike in April.
Exporters closed mostly higher, bolstered by the yen's weakness. Nikon, Advantest, Fanuc and Mazda Motor rose 1-2 percent. Heavyweight Fast retailing advanced 2.4 percent, while KDDI dropped 1.7 percent and SoftBank shed 0.7 percent. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. fell 1.7 percent after the government decided to sell a portion of its stake in the company to help fund the stimulus package.
In economic news, Japan's industrial production grew 1 percent in October from the prior month, faster than the 0.5 percent rise initially estimated, final data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed.
China's Shanghai Composite index eased 0.3 percent to 2,196, falling for a fourth consecutive session, as investors awaited news from an economic planning conference aimed at setting an economic growth target for next year. Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.1 percent to 23,246.
Australian shares broke six days of losses amid bargain hunting. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 finished up 0.7 percent at 5,098, rebounding from a four-month low hit the day before. The Australian dollar slumped below 90 U.S. cents after Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens said the Australian economy would perform better if the exchange rate of the local currency traded near the 0.85 level against the greenback. Prime Minister Tony Abbott also backed Stevens dovish rhetoric, undermining the exchange rate.
Banks ended mixed. WestPac Banking Corp rose 0.6 percent, and NAB as well as Commonwealth gained about 0.9 percent each, but ANZ shed 0.3 percent. Big miner BHP Billiton advanced 0.9 percent and Fortescue Metals Group added 0.2 percent, while Rio Tinto edged down marginally. Crown Resorts tumbled 4.3 percent after the Victorian government increased its poker machine levy to grow its budget surplus. Newcrest Miniing rose 0.7 percent and St Barbara added 1.8 percent even as gold prices struggled near one-week lows amid tapering fears.
Seoul shares fell for the fourth day as better-than-expected U.S. retail sales figures fueled speculation the Fed could begin tapering its stimulus program as early as next week. The benchmark Kospi average fell 0.3 percent to 1,963, its lowest level since September 6. Overseas investors remained net sellers, offloading shares worth a net 269.4 billion won, data showed.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX-50 rose 0.2 percent to 4,717, as network operator Chorus extended its rebound for the fourth straight session. Chorus shares climbed 7.3 percent, power company Mighty River Power advanced 2.5 percent and Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units gained 0.7 percent. Clothing retailer Hallenstein Glasson Holdings plunged 6.5 percent to close at a two-year low after a profit warning.
On the economic front, New Zealand's manufacturing activity expanded for the 14th consecutive month in November, led by new orders, the latest survey by Bank of New Zealand and Business NZ showed. The seasonally adjusted performance of manufacturing index rose to 56.7 from 55.9 in October. Another survey by ANZ Bank revealed that its index of consumer confidence in New Zealand hit a near four-year high in December.
Elsewhere, India's Sensex was down 0.8 percent and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was losing a percent, while Singapore's Straits Times was up 0.3 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite was gaining 0.4 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average added 0.2 percent.
Singapore's jobless rate fell to 1.8 percent in the September quarter from 2.1 percent recorded during the quarter ended June, while retail sales decreased unexpectedly in October, separate reports showed.
U.S. stocks fell for a third consecutive session overnight, as investors digested mixed economic data on retail sales and jobless claims and looked ahead to next week's FOMC meeting. The Dow dropped 0.7 percent and the S&P 500 slid 0.4 percent to end at their worst closing levels in a month, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.1 percent.
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