By Suryatapa Bhattacharya
USA Today Sports/Reuters
Asian equity markets closed mixed on Thursday, with markets struggling for direction most of the session as Chinese and South Korean bourses were closed for holidays.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.43% eked out a 0.01% gain to end at 20,628.56, with the market facing more resistance as the benchmark index nears its 2015 peak, which was the highest since 1996.
Slight gains in the U.S. dollar versus the yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1341% overnight helped support exporters’ shares, as a weaker yen raises the value in local currency terms of the dollars earned by Japanese exporters abroad.
Electronics major Sharp Corp.’s shares /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +0.75% gained 1.8%, while Nintendo Co. climbed 1.2% and Toyota Motor Corp. shares /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +0.82% ended up 0.8%.
In Singapore, the local index outperformed Asian peers after two straight sessions of declines, with the real-estate and banking sectors leading a recovery.
The FTSE Straits Times Index /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.19% rose 0.8% to 3,261.84. CapitaLand /zigman2/quotes/208644605/delayed SG:C31 -1.56% shares gained 2.8%, while lender DBS Group Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204572323/delayed SG:D05 +1.19% rose 1.2%.
Nonetheless, trading in the region was muted as several key markets were shut for holidays. Markets in South Korea and China are closed for the entire week, while Hong Kong was shut on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.92% fell 0.01%, while New Zealand’s benchmark /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR +0.94% ended up 0.3% at another closing record, led by a 5.7% gain in A2 Milk /zigman2/quotes/207461975/delayed NZ:ATM +2.16% , which rose further after the company received approval to export milk to China.
In Taiwan, the Taiex rose 0.5% after being shut on Wednesday.
Buying interest in the region was bolstered by U.S. economic data overnight, including a modest improvement in private employment. Investors’ focus will now shift to Friday’s monthly jobs report for clues about the U.S. economy.
In the foreign exchange market, the Australian dollar /zigman2/quotes/210560947/realtime/sampled AUDUSD -0.2311% fell following news of a sharp drop in retail sales in August. Australia’s imports were also flat from the previous month, another sign of a sluggish domestic economy.
The Australian dollar was last at US$0.7825 from US$0.7856 before the data was released. Its value could be further affected if the U.S. dollar continued its climb, said Stephen Innes, a senior trader at Oanda.
“It is becoming somewhat apparent that the Aussie is one of the currencies with the most to lose on the stronger USD narrative,” said Mr. Innes.