Asia Mostly Lower

Asia markets were mixed on Thursday, after a lower finish in U.S. stocks following the release of the latest Federal Reserve minutes.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 surrendered earlier gains from this week, and tumbled 234.77 points, or 1.1%, to 21,736.44

The Hang Seng Index withered 466.21 points, or 1.5%, to 30,965.68

In Australia, the heavily weighted financial sub-index finished up 0.4% and the energy sector declined 1.3%. Materials gained 0.5%/

Major banking stocks in the country reversed losses to close higher. Commonwealth Bank shares advanced 0.4%. Westpac was up 0.2% and the National Australia Bank added 0.5%. ANZ shares rose 0.2%.

In company news, Qantas shares initially rose more than 9% in morning trade after the airline said it had its "highest-ever" first half underlying profit before tax for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2017. It rose 14.6% year-on-year to 976 million Australian dollars ($761.2 million U.S.), while statutory profit after tax increased nearly 18% to $607 million Australian dollars.

At market close, Qantas shares finished 5.9% higher.

The company is redoubling its efforts to re-balance its capacity away from the European market into Asia, and adding new routes from Melbourne and Brisbane to the United States.

In the Fed's latest meeting minutes, officials saw increased economic growth and an uptick in inflation as justification to continue raising interest rates gradually.

Still, members of the Federal Open Market Committee did not raise rates at their January meeting.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, rose 0.2% to 90.193 late Thursday afternoon, recovering from an earlier low of 90.034.

Among other currency majors, the Japanese yen traded at 107.45 to the U.S. dollar. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7804 while the euro was at $1.2272.


Mainland China markets finally reopened after a long Lunar New Year holiday, the CSI 300 gaining 85.77 points, or 2.2%, to 3,488. 46

In other markets

The Kospi in Korea lost 15.37 points, or 0.6%, to 2,414.28

In Taiwan, the Taiex index dropped 52.06 points, or 0.5%, to 10,662.38

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slumped 27.77 points, or 0.8%, to 3,488.46

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 gained 66.61 points, or 0.8%, to 8,266.88

The ASX 200 added 7.16 points, or 0.1%, to 5,950.88