Asia stocks mostly rise as investors await China's tariff cuts on some US products


Stocks in Asia were mostly higher in Friday morning trade as concerns around the ongoing coronavirus outbreak continue to weigh on investor sentiment.

Mainland Chinese stocks gained in early trade, with the Shanghai composite rising more than 0.1% and the Shenzhen component up 0.51%. The Shenzhen composite also added 0.452%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 0.33% higher.

In Japan, however, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.56% as shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing dropped 1.55%. The Topix index also declined 0.59%. Shares of automaker Nissan plunged more than 9% after the company cut its annual operating income forecast by more than 40%.

South Korea’s Kospi recovered from its earlier slip to rise 0.42%. Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.25%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan rose 0.21%.

China is set to halve tariff rates on certain U.S. products worth about $75 billion with effect later on Friday, as previously announced by Beijing in early February.

Retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. goods will be cut from 10% to 5%, and from 5% to 2.5% on others, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Finance earlier this month. The adjustments will take effect from 1:01 p.m on Feb. 14, it said, without specifying which time zone it was referring to.

Investors continue to watch for developments on the coronavirus outbreak following Thursday’s spike in the number of cases reported after authorities in Hubei introduced a new method for tabulating case totals. On Friday, the province reported an additional 116 deaths and 4,823 new confirmed cases as of the end of Feb. 13.

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On the corporate earnings front, Japan’s Toshiba and Singapore’s Singapore Airlines are expected to announce their quarterly results on Friday. Ahead of those releases, shares of Toshiba slipped more than 0.7% while Singapore Airlines was up about 0.6%.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.122 after seeing an earlier low of 99.101.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.82 per dollar after seeing levels around 109.9 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6724 after touching an earlier low of $0.6707.

Oil prices nudged higher in early trade, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract up slightly to $56.36 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.1% to $51.47 per barrel.

What’s on tap on Friday:

  • Singapore: Singapore Airlines earnings for the third quarter
  • Japan: Toshiba earnings for the third quarter



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