Trade concerns and earnings on the agenda
The Nikkei 225 edged up by 0.12 percent, or 26.66 points, to close at 21,803.95, reversing losses seen earlier in the day. The broader Topix was little changed on the day.
Retailers gained ground, while automakers and technology names traded mixed. Despite the broader gains, shippers declined with the Topix sea transport index lower by 1.36 percent.
Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi added 0.25 percent to end at 2,492.38.
|ASX 200||S&P/ASX 200||5920.80||-14.50||-0.24%|
|CNBC 100||CNBC 100 ASIA IDX||8969.26||-6.55||-0.07%|
Mainland markets closed mixed. The Shanghai composite finished the session mostly unchanged, closing up 0.01 percent at 3,291.61. The Shenzhen composite slipped 0.22 percent to end at 1,874.41. Meanwhile, consumer stocks were the best-performing sector on the blue chip CSI 300 index, which rose 0.57 percent on the whole.
Newly listed stocks on the mainland were lower, with names like China Express Airlines down 9.93 percent. The dive in share prices came after a Xinhua report cited regulators saying such stocks were vulnerable to near-term speculation, Reuters said.
In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.24 percent to close at 5,920.80 as losses in the heavily weighted financials subindex, which traded lower by 0.89 percent, weighed on the broader index.
Trade worries in focus
Shares of Boeing fell 2.5 percent following news of potential trade measures, which could include investment restrictions and indefinite tariffs, being considered against China by President Donald Trump. Trump could implement tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese goods, according to Reuters.
The White House on Wednesday also said the Trump administration wanted China to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S. by $100 billion, and not the $1 billion figure Trump had tweeted last week.
Asian stock indexes had closed lower in the last session amid talk of potential additional U.S. tariffs. That overshadowed the release of better-than-expected industrial output and fixed-asset investment data out of China.
The looming possibility of a trade war saw bond yields dip. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note stood at 2.8134 percent at 3:09 p.m. HK/SIN after touching as low as 2.797 percent earlier. Yields trade inversely to bond prices.
Against the safe-haven yen, the dollar extended losses to 105.99 amid trade-related worries, below the 106.2 handle seen in the last session.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of rival currencies, stood at 89.693 at 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN.
Larry Kudlow, the Trump administration's newly tapped top economic advisor, on Wednesday told CNBC that "a great country need[ed] a strong currency."
Those remarks, however, were unlikely to lift the dollar much given how concerns over the possibility of a trade war continued to simmer in the background, wrote Mizuho Bank economist Zhu Huani in a note.
In corporate news, Samsung Electronics said it would start constructing a memory chip production line in China at the end of the month in a bid to enhance its NAND flash technology, Reuters reported. Samsung shares were off by 0.43 percent by the end of the day.
Elsewhere, Cathay Pacific jumped 4.64 percent by 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN after the airline on Wednesday announced a loss of 1.26 billion Hong Kong dollars ($160 million) in 2017 — smaller than the HK$2.15 billion forecast in a Reuters poll.
Oil prices held onto overnight gains after data on Wednesday showed U.S. crude inventories rose more than expected, while gasoline inventories dropped more than forecast. U.S. crude futures edged up 0.11 percent to trade at $61.03 per barrel and Brent crude futures were nearly flat at $64.90.
European equities finish on a high note amid strong earnings; trade concerns ease
The U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed up 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 jumped 0.65 percent and Germany's DAX rose 0.88 percent. Stocks fluctuated during trade, but received a boost after Wall Street extended gains during Thursday's session.
More earnings trickle inInsurance was the top performing sector Thursday, closing up 1.58 percent, on the back of earnings news. Generali shot up to the top of the sector, popping 2.5 percent after announcing an increase in its dividend and posting a record annual operating profit. Munich Re also rose 2.78 percent after the insurer raised its profit forecast for this year and announced a 1 billion euro ($1.24 billion) share buyback.
Lufthansa said Thursday that higher fuel prices are set to impact its earnings in 2018, which sent the stock 1.4 percent lower in early trade. But it recovered during trade to close up 2.5 percent.
H&M missed market expectations once again by reporting lower sales in the first quarter. The stock slipped 3.3 percent.
Near the end of Europe's trading day, U.K. broadcaster Sky confirmed it had entered into a confidentiality agreement with Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox and Walt Disney. This comes after Comcast offered a rival bid of $31 billion in February. Shares of Sky initially rose following the news, before closing just below the flatline.
Trade concerns in focus
On the data front, the IEA said in its latest oil market report that Venezuela is likely to remain the biggest risk factor among leading oil producers. Oil prices were slightly higher by Europe's close.
Investors are also keeping an eye on politics after the U.K. decided to expel 23 Russian diplomats — the biggest expulsion since the Cold War. On Thursday, news emerged out of Russia that in response to the U.K.'s move, it would soon expel British diplomats. On Thursday, leading figures from France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. went on to issue a joint statement which condemned the chemical attack on a Russian former double agent in England.
Wage growth spooked the market after January's jobs report, but what could be the next stumbling block for this bull market?U.S.
Dow closes 115 points higher, but broader market struggles as trade war fears linger
The 30-stock index rose 115.54 points to close at 24,873.66, with UnitedHealth contributing the most to the gains. Earlier in the session, the Dow rose nearly 300 points. Boeing, which has struggled throughout the week, fell 0.1 percent in choppy trade Thursday.
"Boeing got hit three days in a row earlier in the week because people felt that was a way the Chinese and others could" retaliate, said Art Cashin, director of floor operations for UBS, on CNBC's "Squawk Alley."
"You're going to get that kind of ebb and flow," Cashin said. "I would continue to keep my eye on Boeing. I think it's going to be the critical factor in the Dow."
The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 2,747.33, with losses in materials offsetting a 0.3 percent gain in industrials. The Nasdaq composite pulled back 0.2 percent to 7,481.74.
The White House is thinking about implementing tariffs on at least $30 billion of Chinese imports as part of a package of anti-China measures, the Wall Street Journal reported. Reuters also reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump may impose tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese goods.
Investors worry that other countries could retaliate by implementing their own tariffs on U.S.-made goods and sparking a trade war. This would hurt companies who do business overseas, especially large multinationals like Boeing.
"Second, the law by which the Trump administration is conducting the investigation, Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, gives the president widespread and virtually unchallenged authority to take retaliatory trade actions," Essaye said.
Stocks were also pressured Thursday after The New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Trump's businesses and the Trump Organization "in recent weeks."
The moves Thursday come after Wall Street saw a choppy trading day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing almost 250 points down. Shares of Boeing contributed the most to the losses, as concerns that a trade war could occur between the U.S. and China came to the surface.
Stocks tried to rebound after news broke that Larry Kudlow would become the next National Economic Council directors, replacing Gary Cohn, but failed to erase their losses.
Last week, Trump signed two declarations which would implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — both of which are expected to take effect in the coming weeks.
However, Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said in an interview Thursday the U.S. can institute tariffs without sparking a global trade war.
"Our allies have got to understand that we're simply defending ourselves against what's been an unfair relationship for many, many years," Navarro said on "Squawk on the Street." "This is going to work out fine. The world's going to be a better place."
In corporate news, Williams-Sonoma reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the previous quarter. The company's stock rose 2.5 percent on the back of the news.
Walmart, meanwhile, slipped 0.2 percent amid reports that a former executive is suing the company, alleging unlawful conduct in its e-commerce business.