Asian Shares End Mixed In Holiday-thinned Trade

Asian stocks ended on a mixed note on Friday in light trading as many markets in the region were closed for the Good Friday holiday. Lingering worries about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic weighed on sentiment.

Chinese shares closed lower after data showed that consumer price inflation slowed more than expected to a five-month low in March. China’s consumer prices rose 4.3 percent year-on-year in March, slower than the 5.2 percent increase in February. Inflation was forecast to slow to 4.9 percent.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index declined 29.3 points or 1.0 percent to close at 2,796.63, while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite dropped 34.2 points or 2.0 percent to settle at 1,721.22.

Japanese shares reversed earlier losses to close higher in light trading volume despite worries over the restrictions to business activities and people’s movements in Tokyo due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index added 152.7 points or 0.8 percent to settle at 19,498.50, while the broader Topix Index rose 13.1 points or 0.9 percent to finish at 1,430.04.

Market heavyweight SoftBank gained 3.9 percent. Fast Retailing rose 2.6 despite the casual clothing retailer lowering its full-year earnings outlook.

The major exporters ended mixed on a stronger yen. Panasonic lost 3.2 percent and Sony dipped 0.6 percent, while Canon rose 1.4 percent and Mitsubishi Electric added 0.5 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest declined 0.8 percent and Tokyo Electron lost 1.3 percent each. Among automakers, Honda dipped 0.3 percent and Toyota declined 0.7 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex lost 3.1 percent and Japan Petroleum dipped 2.1 percent as crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Bandai Namco gained 5 percent, Aozora Bank rose 4.9 percent and Chiba Bank advanced 4.4 percent.

Conversely, FamilyMart Co. lost 5 percent, JGC Holdings dropped 3.2 percent and Kikkoman Corp. declined 3 percent.

In economic news, the Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.0 percent on year in March, coming in at 546.248 trillion yen. That follows the 2.1 percent yearly increase in February.

Producer prices in Japan were down 0.9 percent on month in March. That was shy of expectations for a decline of 0.7 percent following the 0.4 percent drop in February.

Seoul stocks closed higher for a second straight day as investor sentiment was bolstered by the Federal Reserve’s announcement of a $2.3 trillion program to support the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The benchmark Kospi rose 24.5 or 1.3 percent to finish at 1,860.70.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics added 0.3 percent and automaker Hyundai Motor rose 2.7 percent, while chipmaker SK Hynix lost 1.1 percent.

Samsung Biologics climbed 16.8 percent after the pharmaceutical company said it won a $362 million deal to perform large-scale manufacturing services of U.S. drugmaker Vir Biotechnology’s SARS-CoV-2 antibodies for potential COVID-19 treatment.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan added 0.4 percent, while Malaysia is declining almost 1 percent. The markets in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore are all closed for the Good Friday holiday.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday as the U.S. Federal Reserve unveiled a $2.3 trillion program to support the economy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, overshadowing a report from the Labor Department showing another jump in first-time claims for unemployment benefits.

The Dow advanced 1.2 percent, the Nasdaq climbed 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 jumped 1.5 percent.

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