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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

Rouhan Sharma

Asian markets changed directions a couple of times Friday and were trading mostly lower after the midday break.

The Nikkei was down 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite fell 1% while the Hang Seng declined 0.4%. The Sensex bucked the trend as it gained 0.5% while the All Ordinaries slipped 0.1%.

Stocks were up earlier in the day after an upbeat finish on Wall Street overnight following U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments that underlined her confidence in the economy, sending the S&P 500 to a record closing high.

Earlier Friday, data showed factory output rose 4% month on month in January, it’s fastest pace in more than two years, while core inflation stood near a five-year high. Retail sales rose 4.4% in January from a year earlier, led by increased sales of automobiles and machinery equipment.

Unemployment was stable at 3.7%.

Dow Jones reported Bank of Japan policy board member Sayuri Shirai as saying in New York that it may take longer than two years to get Japan out of 15 years of falling prices.

The dollar suffered after unrest in Ukraine’s Crimea region as armed men seized the Parliament and raised the Russian flag.

However, China’s yuan fell against the dollar, hitting its lowest level against the greenback since last summer.

Stocks on the Move

Sony was up over a percent following an upgrade from Citigroup and after a Nikkei report that the company will sell its former headquarters.

Olympus was up 2.9% but Sharp, Panasonic, and NEC Corp. all traded lower.

Industrials were mostly gainers after the factory data. TDK Corp. was up 2.5% while Fanuc was up 0.3%. Nidec gained 0.7% and Komatsu was up about a percent.

Auto stocks were lower with Toyota down 1.6% and Honda down 1.7%. Mazda was down a percent while Nissan fell half a percent.

Banks were down in China. AgBank was down half a percent on the mainland and over 2% lower in Hong Kong.

HSBC was flat following a rally in its London shares overnight on news it is in talks to unload its Pakistan operations.

Reacting to results, China Unicom edged up 0.2% after its net profit rose, although lower than expected.

Electric car maker BYD shot up 5.6% while Boyaa Interactive plunged 14%.

China Eastern Airlines pared gains but was still up 0.4% after a ratings upgrade.

Casino stocks were up after Nomura’s forecast of a 33%-35% gain for February’s Macau gambling revenue.

Top gainers in Mumbai were Hindalco and Dr. Reddy’s Lab, up 3.4% and 3% each, respectively.

Tata Motors, TCS, and Sun Pharma all gained about 2.3% each.

Investors focused on earnings reports in Australia. Building major James Hardie strengthened 6.3% but Woolworths and Virgin Australia declined 1.1% and 0.7% each, respectively.

Harvey Norman is due to report slightly later and was up 1.9% ahead its results.