Asian Shares End Lower In Thin Holiday Trading

Asian stocks fell in thin holiday trading on Friday as U.S. President Joe Biden’s comments on China stoked worries that relations between the two nations could sour further.

After a two-hour call with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday, Biden warned lawmakers, “If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch.”

The two leaders discussed a range of issues, including human rights, trade and security, according to the White House. Both appeared at odds on most issues.

Japanese shares slipped from a 30-year high as trading resumed after a public holiday in the previous session. The Nikkei 225 Index edged down 42.86 points, or 0.1 percent, to 29,520.07, snapping a four-session winning streak. The broader Topix finished 0.2 percent higher at 1,933.88.

Shipping companies fell broadly, with Kawasaki Kisen, Nippon Yusen and Mitsui OSK Lines losing 4-5 percent. Automaker Toyota Motor rallied 3.5 percent after boosting its profit projections. Rival Honda Motor gave up 3.6 percent and Nissan Motor slumped 3.9 percent.

Tokyo Electron climbed 3.7 percent and Advantest added 3.9 percent after reports that the Biden administration is working to help address the global semiconductor chip shortage. Renesas Electronics advanced 3.4 percent after posting turnaround results.

Australian markets fell notably amid signs that Washington will continue taking a tough line on Beijing. Sentiment was also dented after authorities ordered a snap, five-day lockdown in Melbourne to contain a new coronavirus outbreak at a quarantine hotel.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 43.40 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,806.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 40.80 points, or 0.6 percent, at 7,081.30.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Weaker bullion prices pulled down gold miners, with Westgold Resources plunging 7.4 percent

Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search lost 1-2 percent as the crude oil rally paused after eight straight sessions of gains.

Property developer Mirvac Group gave up 1.7 percent after it reported a 35 percent drop in profit for the first half of the year.

New Zealand shares fell sharply as U.S.-China tensions resurfaced and rising interest rates prompted investors to offload dividend stocks. The benchmark NZX-50 Index tumbled 171.49 points, or 1.3 percent, to 12,589.64.

Meridian Energy shares slumped 7 percent to pace the decliners. Retailer Kathmandu Holdings lost 3 percent after unveiling its half-yearly trading results.

The manufacturing sector in New Zealand climbed firmly into expansion territory in January, the latest survey from BusinessNZ showed today with a Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 57.7, up sharply from 48.7 in December.

Many markets in the region, including Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for holidays. Chinese markets will reopen next Thursday, while Hong Kong markets will reopen Tuesday.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as a decline in jobless claims signaled a modest firming of the labor market and Joe Biden affirmed the U.S.’s tough line on China’s human rights abuses and regional expansionism in his first phone call with president Xi Jinping.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished marginally lower, while the S&P 500 inched up 0.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4 percent to reach fresh record closing highs.

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