Tokyo, Japan (BBN) – Asian shares were mixed on Thursday following a mild close in US markets and with gold prices at three-month highs.
Australia’s ASX 200 was up just 0.04 per cent, supported by its energy sub-index, which was up 0.56 per cent, reports CNBC.
Rio Tinto shares fell 0.78 per cent after it announced late Wednesday that it would pay a larger-than-expected dividend of $1.70 per share, instead of the expected $1.33 per share and announced a $500 million share buyback.
The iron ore miner had beat on its 2016 profit expectations due to rising iron ore prices and cost-cutting measures.
But it shrugged off concerns that the sale of its Guinea’s Simandou project to Chinalco had stalled after an investigation into payments to a consultant who helped it win rights, Reuters reported.
Shares of BHP Billiton were also down 1.67 per cent, after it halted operations at its Escondida cooper mine in Chile, the world’s largest, ahead of a planned strike on Thursday, Reuters reported.
The Nikkei 225 fell 0.53 per cent, while in South Korea, the Kospi was down 0.04 per cent.
Hitachi plunged 7.03 per cent after news that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which was down 2.74 per cent, requested for $6.64 billion to cover costs from their joint South African power plant project.
Japan’s core machinery orders added 6.7 per cent, instead of the 3.1 per cent rise forecast by a Reuters poll, in December from last month.
The highly volatile data series is regarded as an indicator of capital spending in the coming months.
Chinese markets were higher in early trade, as the Shanghai composite added 0.11 per cent while the Shenzhen composite climbed 0.27 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.4 per cent.
In central bank news, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held its official cash rate unchanged at 1.75 per cent and adopted a bias for holding rates steady through 2019.
The Reserve Bank of India also unexpectedly held its repo rate steady at 6.25 per cent on Wednesday, and signaled the end of its easing cycle, likely due to its inflation targets.
“The [RBI] is set to dramatically undershoot its immediate objective of 5 percent inflation this quarter, which had fueled expectations for a rate cut today or else in April,” said a team of economists at JPMorgan, in a Thursday note.
Major US indexes closed mixed with the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.18 per cent at 20,054.34, the S&P 500 gained 0.07 per cent, at 2,294.67 and the Nasdaq composite ended 0.15 per cent higher at 5,682.45.
On the currency front, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was stronger at 100.22, up from levels below 100 earlier this week.
But the yen strengthened against the dollar, tracking 111.96 in early Asia time, compared to levels around 112 yesterday, and 113 last week.
During Asian trade, spot gold prices traded at $1,239.74 an ounce, on political risk sentiment.
“Geopolitical risks continue to underpin gold in the face of the prospect of higher US interest rates this year,” explained Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note on Thursday.
Oil prices rose slightly on Wednesday during US hours as investors covered short positions, after a rise in US crude inventories were not as high as expected.
Brent crude settled up 0.13 per cent at $55.12 per barrel, while US crude gained 0.33 per cent to settle at $52.34.