Asian Stock Markets Extend Declines

By Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

Stock markets in Asia were mostly lower Friday after modest declines in the U.S. and Europe overnight, but South Korea's stock benchmark rebounded after sharp end-of-session losses a day earlier.

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South Korea's Kospi was up 0.4% ahead of the close. On Thursday, the index in the last 90 minutes of trading 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.

"The amount [of long-arb positions] was a lot more than people expected. There was no one left to buy the stocks," said SooMyung Kim, an equities-derivatives analyst at Samsung Securities.

Paul Choi, head of Korea research for CLSA, added the index's decline wasn't backed by fundamentals, resulting in today's outperformance.

Japan had a roller-coaster afternoon. Among the region's biggest decliners in the morning, led by cellphone-service providers and fresh pressure from a strengthened yen, the Nikkei briefly turned positive after the lunch break.

But the rebound didn't last, and the index finished down 0.6%, logging a fourth-straight decline.

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In Hong Kong, locally listed Chinese financial stocks--which have been among the market's strongest performers this year--continued their recent pullback. The Hang Seng was down 1%.

Singapore's main index slid 0.5%, hit by fresh selling in bank stocks. The Straits Times Index earlier this week hit a fresh 2 1/2 -year closing high.

Equities in India got a lift from exit polls suggesting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party will remain in power in Gujarat state and unseat the opposition in Himachal Pradesh. The Sensex was recently up 0.8%.

New Zealand's, NZX 50 set a sixth-straight record closing high and the 46th of 2017. There were 50 last year. Leading the moves was a 23% rise in beauty-brand manager Trilogy following a buyout offer.

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

Anant Kala and Kenan Machado contributed to this article.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 15, 2017 01:37 ET (06:37 GMT)