Asian markets mostly higher despite global uncertainty
The mainland Chinese markets, watched in relation to the ongoing trade fight between Beijing and Washington, recovered from earlier losses. The Shanghai composite rose around 0.4 percent to close at about 2,591.69 and the Shenzhen component advanced 0.661 percent to finish its trading day at approximately 7,573.52. The Shenzhen composite gained 0.457 percent to close at about 1,322.30.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also climbed by more than 0.2 percent, as of its final hour of trading.
Japan’s Nikkei 225, however, closed fractionally lower at 20,574.63, down by 0.09 percent. The Topix index recovered from earlier losses to finish its trading day 0.36 percent higher at 1,552.60.
Over in South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.81 percent to close at 2,145.03 as shares of chipmaker SK Hynix jumped 5.54 percent despite reporting quarterly earnings which were below expectations. The company attributed the profit decline — its first in two years — to lower chip prices.
Sentiment overall during Asian trading hours, however, appeared fragile as concerns remained over the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations following reports on Tuesday that the U.S. had canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied that an official meeting had been canceled, telling CNBC that no immediate meetings had been scheduled other than the visit by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He next week.
Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart
|NIKKEI||Nikkei 225 Index||NIKKEI||20574.63||-19.09||-0.09|
|HSI||Hang Seng Index||HSI||27120.98||112.78||0.42|
|ASX 200||S&P/ASX 200||ASX 200||5865.70||22.00||0.38|
|CNBC 100||CNBC 100 ASIA IDX||CNBC 100||7620.58||31.40||0.41|
The country released employment data that came in above expectations: there were 21,600 new jobs created in December, beating analysts’ expectations of 16,500. The unemployment rate also surpassed forecasts, coming in at 5.0 percent as compared to expectations of 5.1 percent.
“The key message here is Australia’s labor market is still looking quite strong,” Paul Bloxham, HSBC’s chief economist for Australia, New Zealand and global commodities, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” minutes after the data release.
“If you’re in Australia, there’s really no better time than now to be looking for a job,” Bloxham said. “There are more jobs out there as a proportion of the work force than ever before.”
The Australian dollar was at $0.7098 after touching an earlier high of $0.7166.
The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 109.65 against the dollar after seeing lows around 109.9 yesterday.
— Reuters and CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.
Europe closes mixed as US-China trade developments weigh; ECB holds rates
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed in positive, up 0.25 percent in afternoon trade. Major and peripheral bourses in Europe closed mixed, with FTSE100 closing in the red and the German DAX and French CAC closing in positive territory.
European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX
Ross’ comments come as Washington and Beijing try to fix their trade disputes, under a tariff cease-fire which is slated to end at the beginning of March. The news saw markets pare gains, as uncertainty surrounding a trade deal festered. At the start of the U.S. session, Wall Street fluctuated between gains and losses.
Elsewhere, markets in Europe have been tuning into the latest news coming out of the European Central Bank. On Thursday, the central bank decided that it wouldn’t take any action, opting to hold fire on its benchmark interest rates.
After the rate decision, President Mario Draghi stated that risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook had shifted to the downside, based on “the persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors and the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility.”
In early afternoon trade, the semiconductor soared to the top of the STOXX 600, after its earnings report gave off an upbeat note for the second half of the year, stating that one of its main aims for 2019 was to continue to outperform in its served market.
In autos, Renault came off its highs, but closed in the black after the automaker confirmed that the appointment of its new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard and its new chief executive, Thierry Bollore. Earlier on in the day, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview that embattled executive Carlos Ghosn had resigned from Renault.
Looking at other stocks, shares of Novozymes closed a little over 5 percent, after the biotech firm reported earnings. Looking at its 2018 results, the group said that while it had a “satisfactory” year that was in line with its initial outlook, it had seen a weak performance in its Middle Eastern market region.
Another weak link in trade was Reckitt Benckiser, after the U.K.-listed firm had its rating and target price slashed by Jefferies. Shares closed just under 3 percent.
Outside of corporate news, investors continue to keep an eye on politics as uncertainty surrounding the future of Brexit and the ongoing government shutdown in the U.S. weigh on sentiment.
— CNBC’s Spriha Srivastava contributed to this report
Dow falls after Commerce Secretary says US, China still far away on trade deal
The 30-stock index dipped 46 points, led by losses in Merck and Pfizer. The S&P 500 traded along the flatline as a gain in tech offset losses in health care and consumer staples. The Nasdaq Composite outperformed, rising 0.55 percent, as chip stocks rose broadly. Intel climbed nearly 4 percent while Lam Research surged 14 percent.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier on Thursday that China and the U.S. were not close to striking a trade deal. Ross told CNBC’s “Squawk Box ” that the U.S. is “miles and miles ” from a trade deal with China, adding the two countries have “lots and lots of issues.”
His comments come as China and the U.S. try to strike a trade deal before the beginning of March. If they don’t, additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will come into effect. The two countries have been engaged in a trade war since last year.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Solid earnings reports helped lessen the blow from Ross’ comments on Thursday. American Airlines and JetBlue were among the companies that posted better-than-expected earnings. Texas Instruments also topped estimates.
American Airlines and JetBlue both rose more than 4.5 percent. Texas Instruments surged 6.8 percent.
The earnings season continues later on Thursday, with Intel and Starbucks among the companies scheduled to report after the close.
“We are early in the fourth-quarter reporting season. Results are coming, early on, largely as expected. We’re still continuing to see reasonable revenue growth and double-digit earnings growth,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. But “there has been a notable erosion to 2019 full-year estimates. That’s consistent with the growing, but slowing, thesis in economic growth.”
Investors also kept an eye on Washington as the U.S. government shutdown entered its 34th straight day.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats would block President Donald Trump from delivering his State of the Union address until the government reopened — an announcement that Trump complied with.
James Gorman, CEO at Morgan Stanley, said it will be “extremely negative ” for the U.S. if the shutdown continues for much longer. “If it goes on through months of this year, it’s going to have an extremely damaging effect” on the U.S. economy, he said.
For now, the U.S. labor market appears to be holding up well. Weekly jobless claims fell to 199,000 last week, their lowest in 49 years.
—CNBC’s Alexandra Gibbs contributed to this report.