Japan Ends Week with Big Gains

Asian equities ended mixed on the last day of the week, but trading in the region was subdued with many markets shut for the Lunar New Year holiday.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 255.27 points, or 1.2%, to close the week at 21,720.25, notching a weekly gain of 1.58 percent. Utilities were among the biggest gainers, with Kansai Electric Power ending 5.9% higher and Chubu Electric Powerrising 6.5%.

Used-car dealer Idom soared 2.4% on news that it is partnering with Uber in Africa.

Beer manufacturer Sapporo Holdings slumped 2.8% after reporting a 16% drop in 2017 operating profit.

In wobbly trade, the yen hit a new 15-month high at 105.54 per U.S. dollar, extending gains for a second straight day.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration reappointed Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda for another five-year term in an indication that the country's stimulus policy will stay the course.

Australia's benchmark reversed earlier gains to close slightly lower, weighed down by manganese miner South32. The stock slid 5.1% despite reporting strong first-half profit numbers on Thursday.

Health-care stocks led the gains on the ASX 200. Private hospital operator Healthscope jumped 6.5% on hopes of a potential sale of its Asian pathology business.

The Reserve Bank of Australia plans to leave interest rates at their current record lows for a while, Governor Philip Lowe said on Friday, adding that he hoped for gradual improvement in the unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar hit a new two-week high of $0.7969 U.S., extending gains into a second session.

Mainland China markets remained closed till Feb. 21 while Hong Kong markets will be shut till Feb. 19 for the Lunar New Year. Other regional markets, including South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, also finished the week early due to the holiday.

In other markets

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 gained 61.98 points, or 0.8%, to 8,125.31

The ASX 200 slid 4.95 points, or 0.1%, to 5,904.04