Asia Surges as Middle East Tensions Cool

Major Asian markets were mostly in positive territory on Friday afternoon following the easing of U.S.-Iran tensions, and after U.S. stocks shot to new highs overnight.

The Nikkei 225 leaped 110.7 points, or 0.5%, to 23,850.57.

A day before, retail giant Fast Retailing cut its full-year outlook after worse-than-expected quarterly results, which it pinned on protests in Hong Kong and a boycott by South Korean consumers which hit sales at its Uniqlo retail stores. Shares of the company closed down 2.8% on Friday.

In Japan, Sharp pared gains to rise 0.93% after surging around 2% in the morning, and Alps Alpine was up 1.11%, and Murata rose 1.07%.

The safe-haven Japanese yen traded at 109.56 versus the U.S. dollar, pulling back after strengthening earlier in the week.

The Hang Seng index gained 77.2 points, or 0.3%, to 28,639.20.

In Hong Kong, Sunny Optical bounced 1.21%. Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry surged 1.90%, and Largan Precision soared 4.11%.
Ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections set to take place on Saturday, the Taiex traded up Friday.

South Korea’s LG Display was nearly 1%. Samsung Electronics hit a new record high in intra-day trade, rising 1.54% by the close.

Australian indices were up. Gold miners, however, sold off. Losses were led by Evolution Mining, which tumbled more than 6%. Newcrest Mining was down 1.4%, while Kingsgate Consolidated fell 2.2%.

The rally in gold prices had pulled back following the declining risk of a wider war in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Australia’s retail sales data for November surpassed expectations, jumping 0.9% — the largest rise since last February. One poll had forecast a 0.4% gain.

In corporate news, as bushfires continue to take a toll on the country, Australian insurer Suncorp said its bushfire-related claims since September have hit 345 million Australian dollars ($237 million U.S.). Shares of the insurer closed up 0.61%.

The Australian dollar was at around $0.6877, continuing its slide through the week.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 docked 1.19 points to 4,163.18.

Apple suppliers in Asia were closely monitored after the tech giant’s shares jumped 2.1% to a record high. That was on the back of news that iPhone sales in China rose more than 18% in December, according to Chinese government data.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex triumphed 54.02 points, or 0.5%, to 12,024.65

In Korea, the Kospi index hiked 19.94 points, or 0.9%, to 2,206.39

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index eased up 8.47 points, or 0.3%, to 3,255.95

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 recovered 14.02 points, or 0.1%, to 11,551.70

In Australia, the ASX 200 prospered 54.8 points, or 0.8%, to 6,929.03