Stock Markets Broadly Down as Investors Turn Cautious

Major stock indexes in Asia fell slightly on Friday, mirroring Wall Street's cautious sentiment on risk taking, though strong earnings results from tech companies saw shares in the sector rise.

The market-friendly result of the first round of elections in France helped the region start the week strongly, but stocks have given back some of their gains as investors refocused on local drivers.

The Nikkei Stock Average was down 0.2% in early trading despite a softer yen, as traders wound down activity ahead of the Golden Week holiday next week. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was down 0.3%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 0.2%.

In South Korea, meanwhile, the benchmark Kospi pared gains, after touching a six-year high earlier in the session, following comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that he would renegotiate or terminate a trade pact with the country, according to Reuters. The Korean won also turned lower against the U.S. dollar and was last down 0.2%.

"The main theme overnight was cautiousness despite plenty of headlines from Bank of Japan and European Central Bank, and President Trump threatening to pull the U.S. out of Nafta," Commerzbank analysts said.

Still, "U.S. tech companies continued to report strong earnings," the analysts said, and the strength was echoed in Asia.

Shares of Japan's Nintendo gained 1.8% after it reported better-than-expecting fiscal-year results. The company recorded a net profit of Yen102.6 billion yen ($920 million) for the year ended in March, beating street forecasts of Yen93.6 billion.

Net profit for the gaming giant was helped by the weak yen, which inflated the value of the company's foreign-currency-denominated holdings. The company booked a net profit of Yen16.5 billion in the year-earlier term ending in March last year.

Also in tech, shares of Samsung Electronics added 2.9%, building on Thursday's 2.4% gain, as investors digest the company's restructuring news and its delivery of the best quarterly net profit in more than three years.

Meanwhile, in technology hub Taiwan, the Taiex tech subindex added 0.4% versus the benchmark index's gain of 0.1%.

Elsewhere, Japanese industrial production fell 2.1% on month in March, data released Friday show. The fall was worse than a 1.0% decline forecast by economists surveyed by the Nikkei and came after a 3.2% increase in February.

However, retail sales rose 2.1% from a year earlier in March, after a revised 0.2% increase in February, the government said Friday.

In currencies, the yen was slightly lower against the dollar. Still, the dovish stance by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will likely weaken the dollar versus the yen in the short term, said Osamu Takashima, chief forex strategist at Citigroup Global Markets Japan.

Additionally, the Mexican peso softened 0.2% versus the greenback, correcting after a jump following Mr. Trump's decision to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, rather than scrapping it altogether.

Looking ahead, Asian stocks will likely struggle to find clear direction ahead of the Labor Day holiday for many markets in the region Monday. In Japan, markets will be closed Wednesday through Friday.

In the U.S., the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose less than 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4%, hitting a fresh closing high.

Kosaku Narioka and Hiroyuki Kachi contributed to this article.

Write to Ese Erheriene at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 27, 2017 23:33 ET (03:33 GMT)