Asian markets ended mostly lower Thursday following Wall Street's overnight declines. Tokyo shares fell on profit-taking while banks dragged Seoul lower.
In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index dropped 1.1% to 13943.26. Market participants were jittery as oil prices jumped to a record near $124 a barrel, with investors seeming to ignore a report showing an increase in U.S. crude and gasoline supplies.
Among decliners, financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropped 3.7% and Mizuho Financial Group /zigman2/quotes/204507985/delayed JP:8411 -0.21% fell 5.2%.
Shares in Japan's top auto maker Toyota Motor /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +0.24% declined 1.8%. Just as trading ended, the company announced a 28% drop in fourth-quarter profit on the strong yen and lagging North American sales. (See related article.)
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.6% to 25449.79, tracking Wall Street's correction overnight. The Dow Jones Industrials fell 1.6% Thursday in New York. Among blue-chip banks Friday, Bank of Communications /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 0.00% fell 1.5%, ICBC /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 +0.24% also declined 1.5% and China Construction Bank /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 +0.38% lost 0.3%. Bucking the trend, conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa rose 1.9% after investment bank CLSA upgraded its rating for the company.
In mainland China trading, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks both Class A and Class B shares, ended up 2.2% at 3656.84. Late-session bargain-hunting in blue chips lifted stocks, but concerns over inflation and rising oil prices capped the market's gains. China Life Insurance rose 2.1% while Baoshan Iron & Steel gained 2.9%. Daqin Railway jumped 4.4% and China Shenhua Energy climbed 6.3%.
Airlines and refineries underperformed the general market on concerns over rising costs brought about by high oil prices. Investors are also concerned rising crude-oil prices would add upward pressure to China's CPI and make it more difficult for the government to curb inflation, analysts said. China Eastern Airlines edged up 0.9%, China Petroleum & Chemical rose 0.2% and PetroChina gained 0.3%.
In Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, ended down 0.3% at 1848.00, as losses in banking and construction-company shares outpaced gains in technology and China-linked firms.
Banks and construction firms fell after the Bank of Korea decided to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 5%, placing emphasis on curbing inflationary risks rather than economic stimulation. Kookmin Bank fell 2.5% while Shinhan Financial Group lost 5.1%. Hyundai Engineering & Construction ended down 1.6% and Daelim Industrial closed 1.2% lower.
The strengthening dollar against the won raised hopes that there will be a further improvement in the competitiveness of export-oriented technology firms and carmakers. LG Electronics rose 2.9%, Hyundai Motor gained 0.7%, but Samsung Electronics fell 1.8% on profit-taking. Investors also picked up shares of China-linked companies on bargain-hunting while reshuffling portfolios. Posco finished up 2.3% and Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction climbed 5.7%.
And Hynix Semiconductor outperformed the broad market, rising 2.8% on news that it will buy a stake in Taiwan's ProMOS Technologies in a strategic partnership.
In currencies, the dollar was quoted at ¥104.06 midafternoon in Tokyo, down from ¥104.70 in New York late Wednesday. The euro stood at $1.5342, up from $ 1.5394 late Wednesday in New York.
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