Asia Mostly Lower as Aussie Dollar Stumbles

Asia markets closed mostly lower after a subdued session on Friday as the euro traded close to two-year highs on Thursday comments from the chief of the European Central Bank and the Australian dollar stumbled.

The Nikkei 225 slumped 44.84 points, or 0.2%, to 20,099.75

The Hang Seng Index dropped 34.12 points, or 0.1%, to 26,706.09, ending its win streak at five straight sessions

In individual stocks, shares of LG Chem closed up 0.9% after rising more than 2% earlier in the session, following Korean media reports that the company had been chosen as the exclusive battery supplier for the Apple iPhone 9. This is reportedly the first time Apple has diverged from its multi-vendor policy and chosen a single supplier for an iPhone component.

In Hong Kong, shares of Power Assets rallied 10.6% following news the company was declaring a special dividend of 7.50 Hong Kong dollars ($0.96 U.S.) a share in addition to the interim dividend of 0.77 Hong Kong dollars ($0.10 U.S).

Meanwhile, Hong Kong property stocks were mixed. Shares of Sunac China Holdings reversed earlier gains to trader lower after soaring in the previous session. Sunac shed 0.3%. Guangzhou R&F and Wanda Hotel Development were down 1% and 6.1% respectively.

Nomura increased its target price for Sunac to 25.50 Hong Kong dollars ($3.27 U.S.) from 19.64 Hong Kong dollars ($2.51 U.S.) after changes were made in an asset acquisition deal involving Dalian Wanda. Nomura retained its "buy" call on Sunac shares.

The ECB announced Thursday it was holding interest rates and asset purchases steady. The central bank's president, Mario Draghi, said at a conference later in the day that discussions about potential changes to the central bank's quantitative easing (QE) program should take place in the fall. No fixed time frame was set for when those discussions would begin.

The U.S. dollar also softened against Japan's currency to fetch 111.74 yen compared to levels around the 112 handle seen earlier this week.
Australian markets subsided, on broad-based declines across most sub-indexes. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index was down 0.7% after two straight days of gains. Meanwhile, the energy and materials sub-indexes declined 1.1% and 1.4% respectively.

The Australian dollar was down a leg after a speech by Reserve Bank of Australia Deputy Governor Guy Debelle on Friday. Debelle said there was no automatic reason for the central bank to raise interest rates in Australia just because other central banks were doing so.

The Aussie dollar fell around 1% to trade as low as $0.7873 U.S. on the back of those comments, compared to a high of $0.7959 seen earlier in the session. The currency later recouped some of its losses to trade at $0.7912


The CSI 300 lost 19.28 points, or 0.5%, to 3,728.60

In currencies, the People's Bank of China fixed the yuan reference point at its strongest level since October last year. The yuan mid-point stood at 6.7415 to the dollar on Friday, compared with Thursday's close of 6.7580.

The on-shore yuan traded at 6.7629 to the dollar late afternoon. The PBOC lets the yuan spot rate rise or fall a maximum of 2% against the greenback, relative to the official fixing rate. The offshore yuan was a tad firmer at 6.7562.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex index fell 62.66 points, or 0.6%, to 10,436.70

In Korea, the Kospi index gained 8.22 points, or 0.3%, to 2,450.06

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index regained 20.99 points, or 0.6%, to 3,314.12

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 subtracted 1.58 points to 7,670.86

In Australia, the ASX 200 slid 38.61 points, or 0.7%, to 5,722/84