The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes finished mixed but mostly lower on Friday as investors booked profits ahead of the weekend. Worries about valuations weighed on risk sentiment as well as concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 Delta Variant and its potential impact on the pace of the global economic recovery.
In Japan, the Nikkei dipped below 28,000 as tech stocks followed the U.S. NASDAQ Composite lower. Hong Kong shares inched higher while posting a weekly gain. South Korean stocks ended lower on virus worries and a tech sell-off, but still posted its first weekly gain in three.
China shares were down on Friday, but finished higher for the week as investors bet on policy support. Australian shares edged lower as lockdowns weighed on investors sentiment.
Friday’s Cash Price Performance
On Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 28003.08, down 276.01 or -0.98%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 28004.68, up 8.41 or +0.03% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 3276.91, down 9.31 or -0.28%.
In China, the Shanghai Index settled at 3539.03, down 25.29 or -0.71% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 7348.10, up 12.20 or +0.17%.
China Stocks Post Weekly Gains as Investors Bet on Policy Support
China stocks posted weekly gains, as investors took comfort in the central bank’s surprise decision to cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves to help underpin the country’s post-COVID economic recovery.
China’s central banks made a surprise cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) last Friday, releasing around 1 trillion Yuan in long-term liquidity, lifting hopes for further policy supports throughout the week.
Investor sentiment was also lifted by better-than-expected June activity data including retail and industrial output, driven by a rebound in developed market demand coupled with the sluggish recovery in Southeast Asian exporters.
Nikkei Breaks Below 28,000 as Tech Stocks Track NASDAQ Slide
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei share average fell below the psychologically key 28,000 mark on Friday as tech shares tracked declines on Wall Street overnight, while a continued surge in coronavirus infections dented investor sentiment.
New COVID-19 infections leapt to 1,308 cases in Tokyo on Thursday, the highest since January, a week before the city hosts the Olympics, which could potentially spark a renewed surge in infections amid the influx of foreign athletes and officials.
South Korea Stocks Fall on Virus Worries, Tech Sell-Off
South Korean shares retreated on Friday, dragged down by tech stocks after the NASDAQ closed lower overnight, while rising local COVID-19 cases also weighed on risk appetite.
South Korea’s prime minister said more limits on private gatherings may be needed around the country as the country battles the worst-ever outbreak, with authorities reporting 1,536 new coronavirus cases for Thursday.
Australian Shares Edge Lower as Lockdowns Weigh
Australian shares inched lower on Friday as lockdowns in the country’s two most populous cities soured investor sentiment, with heavyweight miners snapping a four-day winning streak.
The state of Victoria was ordered into a five-day lockdown on Thursday following a spike I COVID-19 infections, joining Sydney as they battle an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.