ASIA MARKETS: Nikkei Cruises On Final Trading Day, Capping Impressive Yearly Gains Across Asia

By Lucy CraymerFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

South Korea, Australia, New Zealand indexes near multiyear highs

Asian stocks were mostly higher as 2017's last trading day progressed, with Japan rebounding some from weakness late Thursday and tech names in the region continuing to recover from early-week selling.

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After a slide in the dollar sent Japanese equities falling into the close Thursday, the Nikkei finished morning trading up 0.3%, even as the dollar was recently down at session lows around Yen112.70, versus Yen112.95 earlier in the morning. Trading houses and metals firms rose more than 1% Friday.

Still, the index will notch a sixth-straight yearly gain thanks to the surge from September to November; the Nikkei is up 19% for 2017.

Meanwhile, the dollar has been finishing the year the same way it has spent much of 2017: under pressure. Against the euro, it will fall for the first time in four years; it is down 12% versus the common currency.

Coming off the back of strong moves in 2017, potential market risks next year include the leadership change at the Federal Reserve and the impact of the U.S. tax overhaul.

But geopolitical risks remain on the back burner. That is "the logical way for the market to be," said Ric Spooner, CMC Markets' chief market analyst. "The risks are not particularly clear or present at this stage, and there are a lot of maybes."

One of the few trading themes in recent days was fresh start-of-week selling in technology stocks on concern about iPhone sales. The sector rebounded Thursday and continued to do so on Friday morning, with Taiwan's Taiex up an additional 0.7%. The island is home to a number of Apple (AAPL) suppliers, and index heavyweight Taiwan (2330.TW) limbed 1.6%.

New Zealand's stock market has closed for the year, with the NZX-50 falling 0.1% in a half day of trading. It rose 22% this year.

Australian stocks pulled back from 10-year highs as the year's final trading day began, and the S&P/ASX 200 was recently down 0.3% despite fresh multiyear highs for mining heavyweights BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) and Rio Tinto (RIO) , as stocks of the country's large banks dropped.

The Australian index is up 7% this year, set for the fifth gain in six years, and 2017's performance is a favorable result "relative to where expectations for index returns were" to start 2017, said Chris Weston, an analyst at IG. Tech and health-care stocks have performed well this year, and commodities names have had a strong past few months, suggesting "investors and traders are happy to hold these names going into 2018," he added.

Elsewhere, South Korean markets were closed Friday. The Kospi stock benchmark climbed 22% in 2017, its best year since 2010. And Indonesia's JSX index jumped another 0.7% early, putting it on pace for its ninth record closing high in the past 10 sessions. It has climbed 20% this year.

Oil futures, meanwhile, were building on Thursday gains in the U.S. after starting softly in Asia on Friday. The U.S. and global benchmarks were each up 0.5% recently.

Bitcoin also saw a morning rally, climbing toward $15,000, according to CoinDesk, after spending much of the past day capped at $14,500 and falling as low as $13,500.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 28, 2017 22:56 ET (03:56 GMT)