Asian Stock Markets Extend Declines

By Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

Stock markets in Asia continued to weaken on Friday after modest declines in the U.S. and Europe overnight, but South Korea's stock benchmark rebounded after Thursday's sharp end-of-session losses.

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The Kospi rose an early 0.6% amid apparent bargain-hunting after the index in the last 90 minutes of trading Thursday went from a 1.4% gain to finishing down 0.4%. The fall was attributed to the quarterly expiration of index options and futures, which sometimes results in heavy trading as institutional investors unwind or rollover positions.

Jay Jung, a sales trader for Nomura in Korea, said there was aggressive selling from local brokers' proprietary-trading desks and Korea's national postal service.

That market was a lone bright spot Friday morning in Asia. In Japan, a stronger yen overnight and declines in telecom stocks helped push the Nikkei down 0.9%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also fell that much, as financial stocks again lagged behind.

Investor sentiment in the regional was also weakened by concerns about tax-reform efforts in the U.S. and the hefty gains for many Asian stock markets this year.

"These markets are a little bit elevated, so people are positioning themselves for the end of the year," said Stuart Ive, private client manager at OM Financial in New Zealand.

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The euro was at Yen132.30, versus Yen133.15 at the end of local stock trading Thursday.

In Japan, wireless-service providers are logging even-bigger declines than seen Thursday after Rakuten announced plans to move into the mobile-carrier market. It and incumbents KDDI and NTT DoCoMo were all down about 5% recently.

Elsewhere, banks continued to weigh on the Singapore market, with the stock benchmark there down 0.6% after a 1% decline Thursday. The index had set fresh 2 1/2 -year closing highs earlier this week.

The market will be looking to see whether there is any reaction to new comments overnight from North Korea after the country's state media said if a U.S. naval blockade was put in place it would be seen as an act of war.

Commodities were being helped by the U.S. dollar's pullback in the past two days. Oil futures were up 0.1% in Asian trading, building on an overnight rebound.

Kosaku Narioka also contributed to this article.

Write to Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 14, 2017 21:31 ET (02:31 GMT)