By Lucy Craymer
Equities across the Asia-Pacific region were lower on Friday, but Australian stocks pared some of their early losses following a sharp fall in the Australian dollar.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (S&P:AU:XJO) closed down 0.7%, with mining stocks coming under pressure following a decline in iron-ore prices. A sharp fall in the Australian dollar (XTUP:AUDUSD) as well alleviated concerns about the impact of its recent gains on the country’s export sector.
The Australian dollar was down 0.8% against the U.S. dollar, after Reserve Bank of Australia’s Deputy Gov. Guy Debelle Friday said there was nothing compelling the central bank to follow others into raising interest rates.
This cleared up confusion from earlier in the week when the Australian dollar rallied after the release of RBA meeting minutes, which some analysts said suggested that the central bank could raise interest rates soon.
“Australian stocks had a nice bounce on the back of” Debelle’s comments, said James Smalley, a broker at Hamilton Hindin Greene.
“General sentiment is more positive as it now seems that [rate increases] are not as imminent as the market had expected, and any increase in rates is seen as a negative to the stock markets,” said Smalley.
However, miners remained under pressure after a 3% fall in iron-ore prices overnight. Rio Tinto (ASX:AU:RIO) fell 2% and Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:AU:FMG) dropped 2.5%.
Elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HONG:HK:HSI) finished down 0.1%. The index on Thursday ended higher for the ninth straight trading day, its longest winning streak since October 2012’s 10-day run.
Meanwhile, a decline in energy stocks dragged Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average (NIKKEI:JP:NIK) 0.2% lower, as oil prices slipped overnight in the U.S. Explorer Inpex (TKS:JP:1605) dropped 1.5% and Japan Petroleum Exploration (TKS:JP:1662) dropped 0.3%.
But bucking the regional weakness, South Korea’s stocks rose further into record territory, with the Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721) closing up 0.3%. That marks the eighth time the index has clocked a record high in nine days of trading.
Broadly, market sentiment remained under pressure amid the political turmoil surrounding the Trump administration in the U.S. Overnight, a Bloomberg report said that the investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in last year’s election was extending to Trump’s businesses.
“This political situation around in the U.S. continues to deteriorate…and there are still risks out there about what this is all going to mean,” said Stuart Ive, senior client adviser at OM Financial.