Asia Mostly Higher Heading Into Christmas Break

Asian markets closed mostly higher in the last day of trade before Christmas, tracking moderate gains made on Wall Street.

The Nikkei 225 regained 36.66 points, or 0.2%, to 22,902.76, with gains seen in trading houses and most financials, while automakers and tech traded mixed.

Share of Kobe Steel closed down 2.4% after it acknowledged that three senior executives knew about data falsification taking place at the company. The steelmaker, currently embroiled in a scandal involving tampering with product specifications, said its investigation into the matter would be completed near the end of February

The Hang Seng Index gained 210.95 points, or 0.7%, to 29,578.01, as tech shares led the index higher. Tencent was higher by 0.9% at that time. Among blue chip names, financial giant HSBC was up 0.4%. Real estate also rose, with China Vanke adding 3.5% and Evergrande gaining 1.2% late in the afternoon.

Korean markets made headway, as blue chips that had fallen in the last session clawed back gains. Samsung Electronics closed up 1.1% and Hyundai Motor rose 2%.

So-called THAAD-linked stocks that have been sensitive to developments in ties between China and South Korea pared losses after seeing steeper declines earlier in the session. Lotte Shopping ended the session flat, Hotel Shilla rose 2.1% and AmorePacific lost 0.5% on the day.

Meanwhile, Australian markets edged up on strength in the resources sectors. Major miners and oil-related plays rose in morning trade: Rio Tinto closed higher by 0.8%, Santos rose 0.8% and Mount Gibson Iron added 1.1%.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar edged up against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index at 93.407 close to the end of the trading day, above Thursday's close of 93.297. The greenback was firmer against the yen, last fetching 113.36 yen.

Japanese pharmaceuticals company Eisai plummeted 14.9% by the end of the day after it announced that a drug it was developing to treat Alzheimer's Disease had not met its criteria for success in a mid-stage trial. Eisai is developing the drug with U.S.-based Biogen, which also saw its stock fall 3.3% in the U.S. session.

Meanwhile, panel maker Japan Display denied reports that it was seeking investment from three Chinese companies. Japan Display said in a statement that it was looking to set up partnerships with "global companies." Shares closed down 1.7%

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers said in a statement it would sell it its Curragh coal mine to U.S.-based Coronado Coal Group for A$700 million ($540 million). In addition, the deal will see Wesfarmers receive 25% of Curragh's export coal revenue generated in excess of a realized metallurgical coal price of $145 per ton. Wesfarmers shares were down 1% by the end of the session.

A South Korean court issued a two-year suspended prison sentence to Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin. Shin, who had denied any wrongdoing, had faced corruption-related charges.

Ahead of the sentence, Lotte Shopping had closed flat, holding company Lotte Corp. had finished higher by 1.5%, and Lotte Chemical was down 1.1% at the closing bell.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 backtracked 13.25 points, or 0.3%, to 4,054.60

In Korea, the Kospi index grew 10.71 points, or 0.4%, to 2,440.54

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index hiked 48.3 points, or 0.5%, to 10,537.27

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index regained 3.18 points, or 0.1%, to 3,385.71

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 recovered 31.99 points, or 0.4%, to 8,396.43

In Australia, the ASX 200 tacked on 9.35 points, or 0.2%, to 6,069.71