Asian stocks fell broadly on Friday due to profit taking at record highs. Optimism about ramped up efforts to combat the coronavirus and expectations for more stimulus under the new Biden administration have helped to prop up the markets in recent days.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid 14.51 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,606.75 amid concerns over a resurgence of coronavirus infections in the country. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 479.91 points, or 1.6 percent, to 29,447.85.
Japanese shares slipped from a 30-year high as the dollar nursed a weekly loss and a survey showed the manufacturing sector in the country slipped into contraction in December, with a PMI score of 49.7.
Another report showed that overall consumer prices in Japan were down 1.2 percent year-on-year in December.
The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 125.41 points, or 0.4 percent, to 28,631.45 as focus shifted to the corporate earnings season. The broader Topix closed 0.2 percent lower at 1,856.64.
Ad agency Dentsu Group lost 2.2 percent after reports suggesting the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the government refuted those reports.
Cosmetics firm Shiseido soared 4.4 percent on news it was in talks to sell its shampoo and skincare business to private equity CVC Capital Partners.
Australian markets finished modestly lower, with energy and tech stocks taking a beating. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 23.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,800.40 as investors reacted to mixed retail sales and manufacturing data. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 28.20 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,078.90.
Retail sales declined 4.2 percent last month, while a gauge of manufacturing activity expanded at a faster rate in January, separate reports showed.
Tech stocks snapped six sessions of gains, with Afterpay falling as much as 5.2 percent. Energy stocks such as Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy fell over 2 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.
Healthcare stocks bucked the weak trend, with heavyweight CSL climbing 2.2 percent on a brokerage upgrade.
Medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare surged 5.9 percent after reporting a sharp rise in nine-month revenue.
Lynas Rare Earths soared 13.7 percent after it signed a contract with the U.S. government to build a commercial light rare earths separation plant.
Seoul stocks fell on profit taking after three sessions of gains. The benchmark Kospi ended a choppy session down 20.21 points, or 0.6 percent, at 3,140.63 after having hit a record closing high the previous day.
Hyundai Motor lost 2.8 percent and its affiliate Kia Motors tumbled 3.6 percent. Tech shares followed their U.S. peers higher, with portal giant Naver surging 6.5 percent and messenger app operator Kakao gaining 2 percent.
Meanwhile, New Zealand shares rallied, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index jumping 221.24 points, or 1.7 percent, to 13,333.43, helped by gains among utility and healthcare stocks.
Consumer prices in New Zealand jumped an annual 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, Statistics New Zealand said, unchanged from the previous three months and exceeding expectations for an increase of 1.0 percent.
Separately, a survey showed the manufacturing sector in the country fell into contraction in December, with a PMI score of 48.7. That’s down sharply from the downwardly revised 54.7 in January.
U.S. stocks ended on a lackluster note overnight, though the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.6 percent to a record close, bolstered by a jump in shares of megacap stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 ended narrowly mixed as jobless claims and housing data showed the world’s largest economy is slowly getting some traction.
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