Asia Surges as Middle East Tensions Cool

Major Asian markets were mostly in positive territory on Friday afternoon following the easing of U.S.-Iran tensions, and after U.S. stocks shot to new highs overnight.

The Nikkei 225 leaped 110.7 points, or 0.5%, to 23,850.57.

A day before, retail giant Fast Retailing cut its full-year outlook after worse-than-expected quarterly results, which it pinned on protests in Hong Kong and a boycott by South Korean consumers which hit sales at its Uniqlo retail stores. Shares of the company closed down 2.8% on Friday.

In Japan, Sharp pared gains to rise 0.93% after surging around 2% in the morning, and Alps Alpine was up 1.11%, and Murata rose 1.07%.

The safe-haven Japanese yen traded at 109.56 versus the U.S. dollar, pulling back after strengthening earlier in the week.

The Hang Seng index gained 77.2 points, or 0.3%, to 28,639.20.

In Hong Kong, Sunny Optical bounced 1.21%. Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry surged 1.90%, and Largan Precision soared 4.11%.
Ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections set to take place on Saturday, the Taiex traded up Friday.

South Korea’s LG Display was nearly 1%. Samsung Electronics hit a new record high in intra-day trade, rising 1.54% by the close.

Australian indices were up. Gold miners, however, sold off. Losses were led by Evolution Mining, which tumbled more than 6%. Newcrest Mining was down 1.4%, while Kingsgate Consolidated fell 2.2%.

The rally in gold prices had pulled back following the declining risk of a wider war in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Australia’s retail sales data for November surpassed expectations, jumping 0.9% — the largest rise since last February. One poll had forecast a 0.4% gain.

In corporate news, as bushfires continue to take a toll on the country, Australian insurer Suncorp said its bushfire-related claims since September have hit 345 million Australian dollars ($237 million U.S.). Shares of the insurer closed up 0.61%.

The Australian dollar was at around $0.6877, continuing its slide through the week.


In Shanghai, the CSI 300 docked 1.19 points to 4,163.18.

Apple suppliers in Asia were closely monitored after the tech giant’s shares jumped 2.1% to a record high. That was on the back of news that iPhone sales in China rose more than 18% in December, according to Chinese government data.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex triumphed 54.02 points, or 0.5%, to 12,024.65

In Korea, the Kospi index hiked 19.94 points, or 0.9%, to 2,206.39

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index eased up 8.47 points, or 0.3%, to 3,255.95

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 recovered 14.02 points, or 0.1%, to 11,551.70

In Australia, the ASX 200 prospered 54.8 points, or 0.8%, to 6,929.03