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Tokyo, Japan (BBN) – Markets in Asia closed mixed on Thursday, with Japanese shares dropping amid a stronger yen against the dollar.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 declined 0.68 per cent, or 125.77 points, to close at 18,426.84, reports CNBC.
The dollar fetched 109.08 yen at around 3:18pm HK/SIN, with the Japanese currency strengthening from levels over 111 reached earlier in the week.
Among major exporters, Toyota shares closed 1.16 per cent lower at 5,731 yen per stock while Mitsubishi Electric declined 2.45 per cent to close at 637 yen.
The strength in the yen corresponded with broad declines in the dollar, following President Donald Trump’s remarks to the Wall Street Journal that the greenback was getting “too strong.”
That pushed the dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, lower from levels near 100.80 to about 100.11 on Thursday at 2:50pm HK/SIN.
“With political tensions remaining high and Trump’s call for a lower dollar, traders are more likely to take notice of bad news over good to keep pressure on the dollar and support the yen,” said ThinkMarkets’ senior market analyst Matt Simpson in a note.
In the interview with the Journal, Trump also reversed a crucial campaign promise and said his administration will not label China a currency manipulator in a report due this week.
“As most knew all along, if China was manipulating its currency, it was in Trump’s favor, not vice versa. The renminbi has appreciated against its trading partners by 40 percent over the past dozen years and continues to do so today,” analysts at Singapore’s DBS Bank said in a note.
In South Korea, the Kospi ended higher by 0.93 per cent, or 19.7 points, to close at 2,148.61, after the Bank of Korea kept its base rate unchanged at 1.25 per cent on Thursday.
The Korean won strengthened against the greenback on Thursday, trading at 1,129.05 at 2:50pm HK/SIN, climbing from an earlier low of 1,137.90.
Down Under, the ASX 200 closed 0.74 per cent, or 44.058 points, lower at 5,889.9.
Major resources producers were notably lower, with Rio Tinto down 4.43 per cent, Fortescue down by 6.78 per cent and BHP Billiton lower by 3.99 per cent.
The Australian dollar traded higher against the greenback at $0.7584, up from a previous low of $0.7515.
Earlier in the day, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed seasonally adjusted employment in March rose by nearly 61,000 jobs from February, beating a Reuters forecast for 20,000.
“We think the RBA would be pleased with the strength in employment in today’s numbers, although the stubbornly high unemployment rate will remain a source of concern,” said Felicity Emmett, senior economist at ANZ.
Mainland Chinese markets rose, with the Shanghai composite rising 0.07 per cent, or 2.243 points, to close at 3,276.0735 and the Shenzhen composite higher by 0.38 per cent, or 7.663 points, to finish at 2,014.6664.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index declined by 0.22 per cent in afternoon trade.
China’s exports rose 16.4 per cent in March, beating a Reuters’ analyst forecast of 3.2 per cent to reverse a decline of 1.3 per cent in February, data showed Thursday.
The yuan strengthened against the dollar; the on-shore yuan traded at 6.8789 against the greenback, while the off-shore yuan fetched 6.8746.
In corporate news, Western Digital warned that troubled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba will breach a joint venture contract if it sells its memory chip unit.
Toshiba shares closed down 5.02 per cent.
Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific announced that Chief Operating Officer Rupert Hogg would replace current Chief Executive Ivan Chu on May 1.
The airline posted losses in March, the first time the company has reported annual losses since 2008.
Cathay Pacific shares rose 0.55 per cent.
Oil prices also fell, after data from the Energy Information Administration showed a build up in US inventories.
Reuters reported the EIA report showed stockpiles at the US crude hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, rose 276,000 barrels in the week.
Brent fell 0.05 per cent to $55.83 a barrel, while U.S. crude was down 0.11 per cent at $53.05.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s trade-reliant economy shrank 1.9 per cent in the first quarter from the previous three months on an annualized basis, preliminary data showed on Thursday.
Separately, Singapore’s central bank left monetary policy steady in a widely expected decision.
Stateside, US equities were lower across the board.
US markets awaited earnings announcements from several major US financials, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The banks were expected to report results on Thursday ET.