Asia Stocks Stabilize After Recent Weakness
By Lucy Craymer
Stock markets were mostly steady in the Asia-Pacific region on Friday following strong rebounds off session lows a day earlier and overnight gains on Wall Street.
Investors continue to take a wait-and-see approach amid the week's developments, which were centered on U.S. politics but also included troubles in Brazil after asset prices there plunged on Thursday amid a scandal involving that country's president.
After two days of selling, Asian stocks appear to be consolidating.
"However, I think that a lot of traders are probably yet to be convinced that we have seen the end of this turmoil, and that I think this accounts for the steady market action with no real signs of any bargain-hunting" early Friday, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
Australia again underperformed the region as stocks continue to be pressured by a proposed bank tax on the nation's biggest lenders. The industry's Big Four, which collectively make up about a quarter of the weighting in the S&P/ASX 200, were down some 1% on Friday. Westpac Banking Corp. and National Australia Bank have dropped about 6% this week.
The headline stock index was down 0.5%, putting the week's decline above 2% and on pace for its worst week since October.
Other markets were more muted, with the Nikkei Stock Average down 0.2% ahead of the midday break even as automotive companies saw modest gains with the dollar rebounding from overnight lows against the yen. It was recently around Yen111.15, versus Yen110.30 late Thursday in Asia.
Markets were roiled this week by growing doubt that the Trump administration will be able to deliver on its policy goals due to mounting political problems. The developments have put the White House on the defensive and saw investors world-wide worry about President Donald Trump's ability to push through proposals on tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending.
"Expect Asian markets to tread water today given a light economic-data calendar," added OCBC Bank. The midday release of Malaysia's first-quarter gross domestic product is the only significant event that investors will be watching during Asian hours.
Meanwhile, oil prices continue to track higher in Asia after prices overnight settled at their best level in nearly a month ahead of next week's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Futures for Brent crude, the global benchmark, were recently up 0.3%.
Write to Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com