SYDNEY (MarketWatch) — Japanese stocks closed in negative territory Friday as a falling dollar boosted the value of the yen, but Hong Kong shares managed to stay in positive ground, with investors looking for bargains after recent losses.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -1.15% ended down 0.4% at 9,521.94, while the broader Topix lost 0.3%, as a rising yen took its toll on shares of most export-focused companies.
With Asian markets reacting to weak U.S. gross domestic product data, the dollar fell to at ¥81.06, down from ¥82.00 in late North American trading on Thursday.
Among those suffering from the stronger yen, car maker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 +8.07% /zigman2/quotes/200876874/composite MMTOF +8.87% lost 3.1%, NEC Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205173342/delayed JP:6701 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/203814274/composite NIPNF +6.92% gave up 1.2%, and Nintendo Co. /zigman2/quotes/208063194/delayed JP:7974 -1.19% /zigman2/quotes/206371241/composite NTDOF -0.18% closed down 0.9%.
Also weighing on Japanese indexes, Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +0.54% saw its stock fall 3.2% after posting a massive fiscal-year loss after the market close on Thursday. Read more on Sony earnings
On the economic front in Japan, core consumer price index rose 0.6% from a year earlier, Japan’s Cabinet Office reported Friday. The gain — the first in more than two years — matched the consensus forecast from a Dow Jones and Nikkei survey of economists. Core CPI rose 0.4% from March. Read report on Japanese inflation.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.13% was up 0.8% in afternoon trading, but off its session highs of gains of more than 1%.
Helping Hong Kong gains, PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 +1.85% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -0.93% added 3.2% following reports that the company’s parent has bought shares in the company and plans to raise its stake further.
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Commodity markets were firmer on Friday, due to the falling dollar. Benchmark Nymex crude-oil futures rose 44 cents to $100.67 a barrel in electronic action, and gold futures were up $3.00 at $1,525.80 an ounce. See report on crude-oil moves.
Bargain hunters are coming into the market on perceptions that valuations in Asia have improved, said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors.
This, combined with the fact that the latest news out of Europe and the U.S. hasn’t been worse, is helping Asian equity markets, he said.
Still, “global uncertainties regarding Europe, on top of softening economic indicators worldwide and worries about a hard landing in China,” remain key areas of concern for investors, he said.
Other notable advancers in Hong Kong included Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 +0.67% /zigman2/quotes/202401350/composite IDCBY +1.61% , up 1,9%, while Lenovo Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205368244/delayed HK:992 +1.86% /zigman2/quotes/201114980/composite LNVGF -6.32% climbed 3.9% after the computer maker posted solid results late Thursday. See report on Lenovo earnings.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.39% wavered between gains and losses, but began moving solidly lower in the late session, down 0.6%.
In other regional Asia-Pacfic equity markets, South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.4%, while the Australian S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.75% nudged up 0.5% to close at 4,684.00.
Retailers were among the best performers in Sydney, with Billabong International Ltd. , shares up 5.1%.
Gains for consumer discretionary stocks helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.24% end fractionally higher in the U.S. trading day on Thursday. Read more on Thursday's U.S. stock moves.