Asian Stock Markets Extend Declines -- Update

By FeaturesDow 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.

The Kospi was recently up 0.4% 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.

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There was aggressive selling from local brokers' proprietary-trading desks and Korea's national postal service, said Jay Jung, a sales trader for Nomura in Korea. Paul Choi, head of Korea research for CLSA, added the index's drop wasn't backed by fundamentals, resulting in today's outperformance.

The only other Asia Pacific stock market higher Friday was New Zealand, with the NZX-50 on pace for its sixth-straight record closing high and the 46th of 2017.

The region's declines were led by 0.9% falls in Japan and Hong Kong. The former was being hurt by slumping wireless stocks and a stronger yen while further weakness in Chinese financial stocks weighed on the Hang Seng Index.

Investor sentiment in Asia was hit by concerns about tax-reform efforts in the U.S. with some concerned by Sen. Marco Rubio's (R., Fla.) spokeswoman's comment that he will vote no on the bill if there isn't a larger child tax credit.

The market is also watching to see whether there is any reaction to 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.

With the euro at Yen132.30, versus Yen133.15 at the end of local stock trading Thursday, Japanese wireless-service providers logged even-bigger declines than seen Thursday, when Rakuten announced plans to move into the mobile-carrier market. It and incumbents KDDI and NTT DoCoMo were finished morning trading down about 5%, with Rakuten hitting 18-month lows.

While insurers and banks weighed in Hong Kong, lenders continued to pressure Singapore's stock benchmark as well Friday. The Straits Times Index fell 0.5% after a 1% decline Thursday and setting fresh 2 1/2 -year closing highs earlier this week.

Commodities on Friday 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.

Kosaku Narioka contributed to this article.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 14, 2017 22:43 ET (03:43 GMT)