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Dec 29, 2017 07:45 AM IST | Source: CNBC

Asia trades mixed on the last trading day of the year; dollar on the back foot

The Nikkei 225 was higher by 0.21 percent in a session where trade is likely to be thin. Automakers, technology and financials mostly made gains early in the session, while retailers saw slight losses.


Major markets in Asia were narrowly mixed on the last trading day of the year following the moderately higher close seen stateside. Meanwhile, copper prices held onto gains to trade near a four-year high.

The Nikkei 225 was higher by 0.21 percent in a session where trade is likely to be thin. Automakers, technology and financials mostly made gains early in the session, while retailers saw slight losses.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 edged down 0.22 percent, with losses seen in most sectors, barring materials. Banking stocks were mixed although the financials sub-index was slightly lower on the whole: ANZ inched 0.05 percent higher and Westpac was 0.38 percent softer. Among mining names, Rio Tinto climbed 0.99 percent and Fortescue Metals shed 0.51 percent.

Greater China markets traded slightly higher on Friday. The Hang Seng Index edged up 0.2 percent. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.21 percent, with gains seen in banking stocks and property names in early trade. The Shenzhen Composite was 0.36 percent higher.

South Korean markets were closed on Friday, with trade to resume only after the New Year's weekend.

Wall Street closed slightly higher on Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing at a record high. The index on Thursday remained on track to record weekly gains.

The Dow tacked on 0.26 percent, or 63.21 points, to close at 24,837.51.

Markets across Asia have run up significantly this year, buoyed by the recovery in economic growth globally. MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan had risen more than 30 percent year-to-date early on Friday.

Those gains were more than the around 25 percent increase seen on the Dow this year.

Dollar on the back foot

The greenback was weaker despite the passage of a major tax bill earlier this month and the prospect of additional interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve in the new year.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six major peers, traded at 92.660 at 9:44 a.m. HK/SIN, near its lowest levels in a month.

Against the yen, the dollar edged down to trade at 112.75, after beginning the week around the 113 handle.

"Seasonally light liquidity and end-of-year rebalancing flows continue to dominate price action," Alex Stanley, senior interest rate strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.

Meanwhile, bitcoin struggled after briefly falling 11 percent following South Korea's announcement that it would be implementing additional rules to regulate cryptocurrency trading.

Bitcoin hit a low of $13,498.78 on Thursday before paring some losses to trade at $14,284.25 at 9:45 a.m. HK/SIN, according to industry site CoinDesk. The cryptocurrency has seen volatile trade, touching a record high of above $19,800 and falling to as low as $10,400 in the span of weeks.

On the commodities front, oil extended gains after trading at its highest levels in two and a half years overnight. U.S. crude futures rose 0.52 percent to trade at $60.15 per barrel, levels not seen since mid-2015, Reuters said. Brent crude futures advanced 0.45 percent to $66.46.

Copper, often regarded as a gauge of economic growth, traded near levels not seen in four years. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was 0.1 percent softer at USD 7,279 per ton after finishing nearly one percent higher in the previous session.

Corporate news

In company news, SoftBank Group and Uber came to an agreement that will see the Japanese tech giant take take a 15 percent stake in the ride-hailing start-up. The deal values Uber at USD 48 billion, which is a roughly 30 percent discount to its USD 68 billion valuation in 2016. Shares of SoftBank were higher by 0.5 percent.
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