Asian Equities Take Stock as 2017 Concludes

By Lucy CraymerFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Japanese stocks rose modestly Friday morning to reverse some of Thursday's last-hour slide while Australian stocks pulled back from fresh 10-year highs as the year's final trading day began.

The drop in Tokyo equities Thursday was stoked by an afternoon selloff for the dollar in holiday-thinned trading. The greenback barely rebounded overnight, limiting Friday's early gain for the Nikkei Stock Average to 0.2%. Still, the index will notch a sixth-straight yearly gain thanks to the surge from September to November; it is up 19% for 2017.

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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.

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 Friday morning, with Taiwan's Taiex up another 0.7%. The island is home to a number of Apple suppliers.

Overall, "equity markets are treading water," said OM Financial client adviser Stuart Ive. "On one side, people are seeing the [U.S.] tax reforms as positive for corporates. But on the other side, if it proves to be positive to corporates and does increase growth then that means increased interest rates."

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

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was recently down 0.3% despite fresh multiyear highs for mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, 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, says 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.

South Korean markets were closed Friday. The Kospi stock benchmark climbed 22% in 2017, its best year since 2010.

Oil futures were slightly higher in Asia trading, adding to the rebound seen during U.S. trade on Thursday. Bitcoin remained slightly above $14,000, near levels seen much of the past 24 hours after the fresh 12% slump seen during Asian trading Thursday.

Mike Cherney

contributed to this article.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 28, 2017 21:14 ET (02:14 GMT)