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Japan Stocks Slip, But Australia, China Rise

 

Japanese blue-chip stocks fell Friday, extending losses into a second day after sharp gains earlier in the week, though Chinese and Australian shares inched higher.

The moves came as Hong Kong and South Korean markets were closed for holidays, reportedly curbing trading volumes in bourses that were open.

Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average moved off opening lows but still traded with a 0.2% loss in early morning action, adding to Thursday’s 0.4% retreat, which had followed a major jump of 2.3% on Wednesday.

Outside of the very largest firms, however, Japanese equities managed to pull higher, with the Topix — which includes all large-cap shares listed in Tokyo — rose 0.2%

Losses for Wall Street overnight helped dampen sentiment, with the S&P 500 (SPX) down 0.5% after a Federal Reserve official tipped a pullback in the central bank’s easing programs could come as soon as this summer.

Tech-sector blue chips were among the leading decliners, with Advantest Corp. (ATE) down 1%, Pioneer Corp. (6773.TO) tumbling 3.4%, and Tokyo Electron Ltd. (8035.TO) shooting 3.2% lower, back to levels seen at the start of the week.

Sony Corp. (SNE) dropped 1.4% after NPD Group data late Thursday showed April U.S. videogame-console sales plunging 42% from year-earlier levels as consumers awaited new devices from Sony and rivals Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Nintendo Co. (NTDOF). Shares of Nintendo traded 1.5% lower.

Other significant losses for blue-chip issues included a 2.2% drop for Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. (ASBRY), a 4% loss for J. Front Retailing Co. , and a 2.7% fall for recently volatile shares of Sharp Corp. (SHCAF).

Among the advancers, Hitachi Ltd. (HIT) rose 1.1% after the conglomerate forecast earnings for the 2015-16 fiscal year that bested analyst expectations.

Sydney, Shanghai nose higher

Over in Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 clicked 0.2% higher, helped by strength in some major mining and banking names.

Senior miners BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) and Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO) added 2% and 0.3%, respectively, after a 0.9% advance for July copper futures overnight. Uranium extractor Paladin Energy Ltd. (PDN.T) rose 3.3%, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FSUMY) added 1.9%, though losses for gold futures helped drive Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCMGF) shares 2.4% lower.

“If commodity prices remain supported in the Asian trading session, Australian stocks should hold near current levels and halt recent weaknesses,” wrote Rivkin global analyst Tim Radford just ahead of the market open. The ASX 200 had ended Thursday with a 0.5% loss, after falling 0.6% on Wednesday.

Among financials, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBAUY) — the ASX 200’s most heavily weighted component — gained 0.6%, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANEWF) improved by 1.4% and insurer QBE Insurance Group Ltd. (QBIEY) rose 1.8%.

Shares of Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. (VBHLF) jumped 8.4% higher after 17% crash in the previous session on the back of a profit warning. Helping boost the airline operator, both UBS and J.P. Morgan raised their ratings on the shares to buy and overweight, respectively.

However, a profit warning at energy firm WorleyParsons Ltd. (WOR.AU) sent that stock falling 10.6% in Sydney.

Likewise, retail major Wesfarmers Ltd. (WFAFY) warned of “disappointing” results at its Target stores, with its shares losing 3.1%. Target Australia is unrelated to the U.S. firm Target Corp., though it uses the latter’s “bullseye” logo.

Over in Shanghai, shares saw rangebound trade, with the Shanghai Composite Index trading 0.2% higher after opening 0.2% to the downside.

Strength in the property majors helped support the market, with Poly Real Estate Group Co. adding 2.2% and Gemdale Corp. up 2.8%. Similarly, top mainland Chinese developer China Vanke Co. saw its shares gain 2% on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

The advance for real-estate came ahead of April home-price data, due out Saturday. Noting March’s 3.6% gain in home prices for the 70 top cities surveyed in the data, ING analysts said: “We think increased monetary accommodation in the beginning of the year … kept home price inflation elevated.”

Also positive for the sector, some investors are expecting the Chinese government to loosen some of its restrictions on property sales by the end of the year, Dow Jones Newswires quoted a Guotai Junan Securities as saying.

Dow Jones Newswires

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