By V. Phani Kumar, Shri Navaratnam and Wei-Zhe Tan
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Asian markets ended mixed Friday, with commodity producers fronting gains in Sydney, while Shanghai shares tumbled as investors took profits in a range of stocks that recently have outperformed the benchmark index.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average finished flat, with exporters extending losses on the yen's strength against the U.S. dollar, which makes Japanese goods less competitive on global markets. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.5%, South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2% after a choppy session, China's Shanghai Composite lost 1.8%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.7%. In afternoon trading, India's Sensex had shed 0.2% and Singapore's Straits Times Index was flat.
Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.17% futures were down one point in screen trade.
"The market is really just marking time because global economic data has been mixed, (and) we've risen about 5% in the last eight days," said Shaw Stockbroking head of trading, Jamie Spiteri, in Sydney. "It will take time to resolve the issues overhanging markets, whether you are talking about European debt, the sustainability of U.S. economic recovery, Asian growth or our domestic political situation," he said.
A successful Spanish government bond auction Thursday helped allay concerns over the creditworthiness of Spanish government debt, providing some relief for investors still nervous about the euro-zone debt crisis. "Gains in the euro against the U.S. dollar after the successful Spanish bond auction will likely help keep sentiment positive as that's a sign of easing risk aversion," said Lee Kyoung-min, analyst at Woori Investment & Securities in Seoul.
The Australian market was boosted by a rebound in cyclical stocks after the previous day's pullback, with materials, energy and financial shares underpinning gains. BHP Billiton /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP +1.66% /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.17% edged up 0.8%, Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO +1.78% rose 1.1% and Newcrest Mining /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM +0.82% /zigman2/quotes/203286036/delayed NCMGY +0.80% advanced 1.7%.
David Jones fell 0.4% on news the company's Chief Executive Mark McInnes had resigned after admitting to behavior that was "unbecoming of a chief executive to a female staff member" at two company functions.
The Tokyo market ended flat after seesawing, weighed by concerns about the U.S. economic recovery and a stronger yen. On Thursday, U.S. data showed an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims and a bigger-than-expected drop in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's June index of business activity for factory operators.
"It's true European concerns are receding, but there's growing uncertainty on U.S. economic conditions," said Hideyuki Ishiguro, strategist at Okasan Securities.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +0.10% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.04% dropped 1.7%, while Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.51% /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 +1.19% gave up 1.7% on the stronger yen and lingering worries about strikes in China. Tokyo Electron /zigman2/quotes/206919677/delayed TOELY -0.80% /zigman2/quotes/202883609/delayed JP:8035 -0.10% added 0.5% and Advantest Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206869087/delayed JP:6857 -0.33% gained 0.2% on stronger chip manufacturing equipment orders in May. Nintendo Co. /zigman2/quotes/201616881/delayed NTDOY -0.35% gained 2% on hopes for strong demand for the Nintendo 3DS, which it unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week. It is the latest version of the company's portable-game system, which allows users to play 3-D games without wearing special glasses.
Ranking among the big losers in Shanghai, Jaingzhong Pharmaceutical Co. /zigman2/quotes/204348100/delayed CN:600750 +0.24% sank 4.1% and Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/202194507/delayed CN:600664 0.00% gave up 5.8% on follow-up selling after Thursday's sharp declines. Tsingtao Brewery Co. /zigman2/quotes/205439669/delayed CN:600600 +1.08% /zigman2/quotes/204242453/delayed TSGTY -0.60% lost 4.2% and Qingdao Haier Co. /zigman2/quotes/200743595/delayed CN:600690 -0.46% shed 2% in Shanghai, while Shenzhen Clou Electronics Co. and Advanced Technology & Materials Co. slumped by the day's 10% limit in Shenzhen. All the above stocks have outperformed the respective benchmark indexes in Shanghai and Shenzhen in the year to date.
Blue-chip Hong Kong developer Henderson Land Development /zigman2/quotes/208724890/delayed HK:12 +1.56% /zigman2/quotes/200560946/delayed HLDCY +2.13% fell 1.1% after the government said Thursday that regulatory and law enforcement units are investigating the cancellation of home sales at a luxury project it launched at 39 Conduit Road. Only four out of the 24 units sold there were completed and the firm is expected to book a loss of 734 million Hong Kong dollars ($94 million) in the first half of 2010 from the default.
In Mumbai, shares of heavyweight Reliance Industries declined 1% after Chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders the company will reenter the power and telecommunications sectors after he recently scrapped a non-compete agreement with younger brother Anil Ambani. The two brothers had split Reliance group assets a few years ago under an agreement that gave control of the group's telecommunications and power businesses to Anil Ambani. Shares of Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Communications dropped 2.3% and Reliance Power dropped 1.8%.
The South Korean market was choppy as "investors appear to be in a wait-and-see mode and the market is taking a breather after recent rapid gains," said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Taurus Investment & Securities.
Hynix Semiconductor slipped 0.2% to 28,150 Korean won ($23.4) despite state-run KDI's successful sale of its 0.7% stake in the chipmaker at 28,200 Korean won per share.
"Hynix shares were sold at a good price and digested well via the block sale," said Lee Sun-tae, an analyst at Meritz Securities, noting that the stock gained 3.3% Thursday.
Elsewhere in the region, Taiwan's Taiex declined 0.3%, New Zealand's NZX 50 inched up 0.1% and Philippine shares ended 0.7% higher. In late afternoon, Indonesian stocks were 1.2% higher and Thailand's SET Index gained 0.2%.
In foreign-exchange markets, the euro was buying $1.2397 from $1.2388 late Thursday in New York, and 112.51 yen from 112.72 yen. The dollar was fetching 90.75 yen, compared with 91.00 yen.
"It still looks like an environment of sell-on-rallies for the euro and other risk currencies, with their gains likely to run out of steam over coming days," said Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank in a research note. "There is little of interest today in terms of data releases, suggesting that currencies are likely to consolidate in ranges over the near term."
Lead Japanese government bond futures were up 0.20 at 140.61 points, supported by a rise in U.S. Treasurys on Thursday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year JGB was down two basis points at 1.200%.
Spot gold was at $1,243.90 per troy ounce, down $1.30 from late New York trade on Thursday. July Nymex crude-oil futures were down 23 cents at $76.56 per barrel on Globex.