Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trade

Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday, despite a rebound on Wall Street overnight after data showed the U.S. economic recovery is underway.

While bargain hunting offered some support, inflation worries and COVID concerns kept the underlying mood cautious.

Chinese markets ended lower, as financials and consumer staple stocks came under selling pressure, offsetting gains in the commodities sector. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 20.39 points, or 0.58 percent, to 3,486.56, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index finished marginally higher at 28,458.44.

Japanese shares ended higher despite lingering concerns over slow economic recovery from the pandemic due to stagnated vaccine rollouts. The Nikkei average climbed 219.58 points, or 0.78 percent, to 28,317.83, while the broader Topix index closed 0.46 percent higher at 1,904.69.

Japan’s factory activity expanded at a slower pace in May while inflation fell in April, surveys showed earlier today just as the country approved two more coronavirus vaccines.

More than 40 percent of Japan’s population will be under the state of emergency starting this weekend as the country pushes on with Olympic test events.

Market heavyweight Fast Retailing rallied 1.1 percent and medical equipment maker Olympus gained over 2 percent, while chip making equipment maker Tokyo Electron dropped 1.3 percent.

Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is in deal with Moderna Inc., to begin the vaccine distribution in the country rose 1.4 percent.

Inpex, Japan’s biggest oil and gas explorer, tumbled 3.9 percent and peer Japan Petroleum Exploration gave up 3.2 percent.

Australian markets fluctuated before ending slightly higher after a survey showed retailers enjoyed stronger-than-expected sales in April. A measure of Australian manufacturing activity also expanded at a faster pace in May.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 edged up 10.70 points, or 0.15 percent, to 7,030.30 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 12.70 points, or 0.18 percent, at 7,265.30.

Tech stocks ended mixed, with Xero climbing 4.2 percent and Wisetech Global adding 1 percent, while Appen slumped 5.1 percent.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals dropped 1-2 percent, tracking weak iron ore prices after Beijing vowed to stabilize commodities prices. Mineral Resources lost 4.2 percent.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search Santos gave up 3-5 percent after crude oil prices tumbled overnight.

Kogan.com plummeted 14.3 percent after the online retailer issued an earnings downgrade due to issues with excess inventory and problems with its shipping costs. EML Payments surged 15.8 percent to extend gains for the second day.

Seoul stocks closed lower as investors locked in some profits amid uncertainties over inflation and China’s crackdown on crypto trading. The benchmark Kospi dipped 5.86 points, or 0.19 percent, to 3,156.42 despite early data suggesting that exports are set to surge in May. LG Chem fell 1 percent and POSCO lost 1.4 percent.

New Zealand shares ended slightly higher, with the benchmark NZX-50 index rising 22.44 points, or 0.18 percent, to 12,459.61. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, whose respiratory devices have been in hot demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, rose over 2 percent.

U.S. stocks closed higher overnight to snap a three-day losing streak, as tech stocks rebounded, the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies steadied and data showed a drop in jobless claims last week, in an indication of further progress in the labor market.

The Dow edged up 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1.1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index climbed 1.8 percent.

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