Asian stocks mostly steady; dollar wobbles following overnight gains

Asian markets were subdued on Friday as the dollar wobbled after gaining overnight following comments from President Donald Trump.

Nikkei 225 index rose 0.19 percent. Major exporters traded mixed as the dollar slipped while financial names were largely in negative territory.

Automakers were a mixed picture. Toyota rose 0.61 percent and Honda tacked on 0.38 percent. Suzuki Motor fell 2.53 percent after Maruti Suzuki India announced quarterly profit that was below expectations, according to Reuters.

Fanuc Manufacturing gave up early gains to trade 0.3 percent lower

Data released Friday showed December consumer prices in Japan were stable. The core consumer price index increased 0.9 percent in December compared to one year ago, a figure that was in line with expectations, Reuters said. Excluding food and energy, prices rose 0.3 percent last month.

Retailers were mostly higher on the day, with Fast Retailing advancing 1.22 percent.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi reversed slight losses to trade higher by 0.04 percent, having hit a fresh record high in the previous session.

Tech stocks traded mixed: Samsung Electronics rose 0.32 percent while SK Hynix slid 1.06 percent, giving up some of the gains made after it announced record-high quarterly profit on Thursday.

Automakers were broadly lower after Hyundai Motor reported a fall in annual operating income on Thursday. Hyundai Motor declined 4.42 percent and affiliate Kia Motors lost 2.36 percent.

Greater China markets traded mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged up 0.55 percent after snapping a seven-day winning streak on Thursday. Large cap financials were higher in the morning, with China Construction Bank gaining 2.1 percent. Tech heavyweight Tencent rose 2.36 percent.

Mainland markets saw slight gains. The Shanghai composite edged up 0.06 percent and the Shenzhen composite inched higher by 0.04 percent.

Meanwhile, data released earlier showed profits made by industrial companies in the country grew 10.8 percent last month compared to one year ago, Reuters said.

Markets in Australia and India are closed for Australia Day and Republic Day, respectively.

The dollar gave up gains after edging higher overnight on comments from Trump that he “ultimately” wanted a strong dollar. He added that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments about the currency had been “taken out of context.”

Mnuchin’s Wednesday comments about a weaker dollar being good for trade saw the currency plunge to a three-year low earlier in the week.

At 10:05 a.m. HK/SIN, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major currencies, traded at 89.153, below Thursday’s low of 89.158. Against the yen, the dollar was mostly steady at 109.47.

The trend of weakness in the dollar will continue “for the time being,” Nate Thooft, global head of asset allocation at Manulife Asset Management, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“I don’t think many central bankers are getting the focus they once were because people believe that the end is coming closer and closer to … super-accommodative policy,” Thooft added.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the session at a record, with markets focused on upbeat corporate earnings releases. Around 78 percent of S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly earnings have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

On the economic front, the European Central Bank on Thursday kept monetary policy steady, with ECB President Mario Draghi highlighting solid growth in the bloc.

The euro last traded at $ 1.2421 after notching a fresh three-year high against the dollar overnight.

Japan’s Fujitsu is in talks about selling its mobile phone unit to Polaris Capital, Reuters reported on Friday. An agreement, worth as much as 50 billion yen ($ 456 million), could be due at the end of January, Japanese newspaper Nikkei said, without citing sources. Fujitsu shares were up 1.76 percent, outperforming most other Japanese tech shares.

Meanwhile, shares of South Korean department store chain Shinsegae and E-Mart, its discount chain affiliate, surged 11.45 percent and 13.28 percent, respectively. The bounce came after news that the companies had signed a memorandum of understanding for more than 1 trillion won ($ 940 million) in investment for an online business spin-off, according to a translation of a filing.

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