Asian Shares Mixed Amid Trade Talks


Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday as hopes for Chinese stimulus helped offset weak economic readings from the U.S. and Europe.

Investors continued to closely watch high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators in Washington, as the two sides face a March 1 deadline to avoid a further escalation in tariffs.

Chinese shares ended sharply higher after data showed growth in China's new home prices fell to a nine-month low in January, boosting stimulus hopes.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index jumped as much as 52.43 points or 1.91 percent to 2,804.23, its highest level since September.

A report from CNBC indicated that Chinese authorities could be getting ready to implement more extensive stimulus measures in a bid to encourage economic growth. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.65 percent to close at 28,816.30.

Japanese shares fell to snap a four-day winning streak as investors digested a set of weak U.S. data. Japanese inflation picked up in January, but remained far below the Bank of Japan's target, a government report showed.

The Nikkei average dropped 38.72 points or 0.18 percent to 21,425.51, but ended the week higher by 2.5 percent. The broader Topix index declined 3.98 points or 0.25 percent to 1,609.52.

Financials pulled back from recent gains, with lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group falling 1.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group declining 0.8 percent. Exporters turned in a mixed performance.

Australian markets eked out modest gains as U.S.-China trade talks reach a pivotal point. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 28.10 points or 0.46 percent to 6,167.30 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 27.30 points or 0.44 percent at 6,241.90.

Banks ANZ and Commonwealth rose around 1 percent after Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe sounded optimistic about the economy. Online travel booking company Webjet soared 8.4 percent on robust results.

Whitehaven Coal reversed early losses to end 0.7 percent higher as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg clarified that there was no Chinese ban on Australian coal.

On the losing side, Woodside Petroleum lost 4.2 percent on going ex-dividend. Regis Healthcare plunged 5.3 percent after it reported a more than 12 percent decline in first-half profit.

Seoul stocks ended little changed, with the benchmark Kospi finishing marginally higher at 2,230.50 as investors monitored ongoing trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

Shares of Samsung SDI dropped over 1 percent on speculation that it may not benefit from the release of foldable Galaxy phone. Posco and LG Chem also ended down around 1 percent.

New Zealand shares finished marginally higher as global growth concerns kept underlying sentiment cautious. Auckland International Airport rose 1 percent after reporting a rise in underlying first-half profit.

Overnight, the major U.S. averages dropped around 0.4 percent as investors digested weak data on regional manufacturing activity, durable goods orders and existing home sales.