By Associated Press and Marketwatch
Asian stocks were mostly higher on Thursday as positive U.S. earnings reports reassured investors that the world’s largest economy was on track. Poor Japanese data for the second straight day weighed on the Nikkei 225 index.
The Shanghai Composite index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.19% gained 0.5% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.22% rose 0.6%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.0026% picked up 0.1%. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.86% added 0.2% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.23% declined 0.3% after a preliminary survey showed manufacturing slowing in January. Shares rose in Taiwan and Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.23% but fell in Malaysia /zigman2/quotes/210598052/delayed MY:FBMKLCI +0.79% .
Among individual stocks, camera maker Nikon /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 -0.50% surged in Tokyo while Fast Retailing /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 +0.14% and Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +1.54% fell. In Hong Kong, tech names such as AAC /zigman2/quotes/201441510/delayed HK:2018 -1.54% and Sunny Optical /zigman2/quotes/206687505/delayed HK:2382 +0.37% gained, though Tencent /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -0.18% dropped. South Korean chip maker SK Hynix /zigman2/quotes/206420319/delayed KR:000660 -0.68% jumped despite reporting disappointing earnings .
Earlier, strong quarterly earnings by big companies like IBM /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +2.42% , Proctor & Gamble /zigman2/quotes/202894679/composite PG +0.40% and United Technologies helped most U.S. indexes finish Wednesday with slight gains. IBM stocks surged 8.5% to $132.89 after its fourth-quarter results exceeded expectations. But traders were worried about reports that the U.S. had turned down an offer by Chinese trade officials to meet in Washington this week, citing the lack of progress on issues like intellectual property rights. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied it. The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.36% added 0.2% to 2,638.70. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +2.05% advanced 0.7% to 24,575.62 and the Nasdaq composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.78% gained 0.1% to 7,025.77.
On Thursday, a private survey suggested that Japanese manufacturing had slowed in January. The Markit/JMMA flash purchasing managers’ index fell to 50.0 from December’s 52.6. Readings above 50 indicate expansion on the index’s 100-point scale. The survey found that key output and new orders contracted while exports slumped further. Just a day ago, Japan released weaker-than-expected trade data for December, with exports registering its largest drop in two years, mostly due slowing demand in China.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan took aim at the U.S. in pointed comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Wang said that “Shifting blame for one’s own problems onto others will not resolve the problems,” alluding to a trade war with Washington that has both sides imposing heavy taxes on each other’s imports. Wang said China still has “enormous market potential” despite its recent worse-than-anticipated slowdown.
“Major Asia-Pacific indices are fluctuating around the session breakeven point, reflecting the ongoing global debate about growth prospects,” Michael McCarthy, Chief Market Strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said in an interview.
U.S. crude oil dropped 18 cents to $52.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 39 cents to $52.62 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude , used to price international oils, shed 19 cents to $60.95 per barrel. It lost 36 cents to $61.14 in London.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1451% slipped to 109.53 yen from 109.61 yen late Wednesday.