By Kosaku Narioka
Japanese stocks posted paltry gains Friday, helped by several solid earnings results, but struggled to recover from a selloff Thursday following unexpectedly weak U.S. gross domestic product figures earlier in the week.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.67% added 0.1% to 19,531.63, ending the week with a 2.4% fall, the sharpest since December. New Zealand stocks /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR -0.69% rose 0.1% and the Australian market was up 0.4%. Most other Asian markets were closed for Labor Day, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
Japanese stocks have been helped by the prospect of U.S. economic recovery, with the benchmark Nikkei gaining 12% in 2015. But data showed Wednesday that the U.S. economy grew only 0.2% in the first quarter, slowing down from a 2.2% pace in the fourth quarter.
The Bank of Japan maintained its current easing program Thursday, giving market participants a signal to sell for now, as uncertainty remains over the pace of the U.S. recovery and when the Federal Reserve may start raising interest rates, said Yoshihiro Okumura, general manager of research at Chibagin Asset Management.
Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management, said there has been a reversal of money flows in several assets, with the dollar losing ground against the euro as expectations weaken that the U.S. central bank will raise rates in the coming weeks.
Nonetheless, several strong Japanese earnings supported the Tokyo market.
Bathroom products manufacturer Toto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207308983/delayed JP:5332 +0.72% rose 7.9% after the firm said it expects its net profit to increase by 28% to ¥31.8 billion ($265 million) in the fiscal year ending in March 2016.
Japan Tobacco Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208255672/delayed JP:2914 +0.13% gained 3.6% after the company said it logged a net profit of ¥104.2 billion in the January-March quarter, roughly unchanged from last year.
Meanwhile, a rise in mining stocks helped keep Australia’s stock market out of negative territory after Brazilian iron-ore producer Vale S.A. /zigman2/quotes/204339679/composite VALE +0.37% gave the strongest signals yet Thursday that it could temper output in the face of an oversupplied global market. Big iron-ore miners were higher — BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP -0.82% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -0.49% was up 1.7% and Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO +0.83% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -1.32% /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO -1.65% was 2% higher.
The S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.04% ended the day at 5,814.4. That narrowed the week’s decline to 2% after the index on Monday came within 20 points of 6,000—a level last breached in January 2008 despite several attempts in recent months.
Among other individual stock movers, Fujitsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208459594/delayed JP:6702 +0.99% lost 18% after the company said it expects net profit to drop 29% in the fiscal year ending March 2016.
—Robb Stewart in Melbourne and Megumi Fujikawa in Tokyo contributed to this article.