Asian Markets Climb Despite Soft Lead from U.S.

Asian stock indexes closed higher on Thursday after last session's rally stalled late in the trading day.

The Nikkei 225 average in Japan gained 245.49 points, or 1.1%, to 21,890.86, after closing barely in positive territory in the last session.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong recovered 128.07 points, or 0.4%, to 30,451.27

In Japan, financials, automakers and manufacturers traded higher: Toyota rose 2.4%, Fanuc Manufacturing gained 3.6% and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group was up 1.1% by the end of the day.

Technology shares were mixed: Nikon advanced 0.4% while Nintendo slid 1.3%.

Reinsurance company Swiss Re said it was in talks with SoftBank over a "potential minority investment." According to the Wall Street Journal, SoftBank is looking for an up-to-$10-billion U.S. stake in the company.

Separately, the Japanese conglomerate announced on Wednesday it was making preparations to list its domestic telecommunications arm, SoftBank Corporation. Shares of SoftBank reversed early losses to close higher by 1%

Even with Thursday's gains, the Nikkei was still down almost 4.5% so far this week.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar firmed against the yen to trade at 109.64 yen.

In Hong Kong, among blue chips, HSBC traded higher by 0.6% and tech giant Tencent advanced 1.5% ahead of the market close. Energy-related stocks were in negative territory.

Wynn Macau stock jumped 8.2% after resuming trade on Thursday. The pop in share price came after casino mogul Steve Wynn's departure as CEO and chairman of Wynn Resort on Wednesday following allegations of sexual misconduct, which Wynn denied.

In Korea, Heavily weighted technology stocks gained, with chipmaker SK Hynix climbing 3.9% to extend last session's gains.

Samsung Electronics tacked on 0.4% by the end of the day. The move followed news that its chairman, Lee Kun-hee, was suspected of tax evasion.

South Korean manufacturers were a mixed picture. Steelmaker Posco closed down 1.2%, Hyundai Steel slipped 0.6% and Samsung Engineering added 1%.

Down Under, markets edged up as losses in the energy and materials sectors were offset by gains in the heavily weighted financials sub-index, which rose 0.8%

Shares of Rio Tinto slipped 1% after the mining company on Wednesday announced a record full-year dividend of $5.2 billion U.S., or $2.90 per share. That came as the company's underlying earnings for 2017 rose 69% to $8.63 billion U.S. The miner also announced a $1-billion share buyback.

Among other individual movers, Australia's AMP bounced 3.6% after the wealth manager on Thursday announced a full-year profit of 1.04 billion Australian dollars ($813 million U.S.), which was more than double its profit the year before.

Singapore's DBS Group on Thursday announced that its fourth-quarter profit rose 33% to 1.22 billion Singapore dollars ($905 million U.S.), in line with the S$1.2 billion projected in a Thomson Reuters poll. DBS stock was up 4.2%.

Elsewhere, the New Zealand dollar slid to a one-month low after the country's central bank kept interest rates on hold earlier in the day. The kiwi dollar slipped to trade at $0.7209.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 faded 38.45 points, or 1%, to 4,012.05

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China tumbled 4.4% and Bank of China lost 3.5% by the end of the day.

Trade data released on Thursday showed dollar-denominated imports in January rose 36.9%, topping the 9.8% forecast. Meanwhile, exports in dollar terms increased 11.1% above the 9.6% projected. The country's trade surplus, however, missed expectations.

The yuan looked poised for its worst day in a year, with the currency declining around 1%. Earlier, the People's Bank of China on Thursday had set the yuan midpoint at 6.2822 per U.S. dollar, its highest level in two and a half years.

In other markets

The Kospi in Korea regrouped 11.06 points, or 0.5%, to 2,407.62

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index moved lower 23.02 points, or 0.2%, to 10,528.52

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index recouped 32.13 points, or 1%, to 3,415.90

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 fell 17.59 points, or 0.2%, to 8,177.14

The ASX 200 gained 13.89 points, or 0.2%, to 5,890.70