Asian investors moved with caution in Friday trade after days of volatility on global financial markets failed to boost confidence.
In Tokyo, stocks were trading 0.5 percent lower by the break despite a late rally in New York, as investors cashed in after the previous day’s strong rises.
With the trading year winding down, the Nikkei index is heading for its first closure with an annual loss in seven years.
“It’s inevitable that selling emerges after sharp rises like yesterday’s,” said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Centre.
Over the year, Tokyo’s bellwether index has lost more than 10 percent.
“The Nikkei scored annual gains for the past six years under Abenomics but it’s not the case any more,” Sengoku said, referring to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-spending policies.
“This is because of large swings caused by the Trump administration rather than domestic problems,” he told AFP, noting President Donald Trump’s trade spat with China weighed particularly on the market.
Investors moved cautiously across other Asian markets Friday, with the Hang Seng in Hong Kong hovering between positive and negative territory for much of the morning.
In Sydney shares were up 0.6 percent in morning trade, Bangkok slipped 0.5 percent, and Seoul’s Kospi shares index gained 0.6 percent.
– Year of pain –
Volatility reigned supreme across global markets this week, as investors wrestled with worries about slowing global growth, trade wars, the Brexit process and a US government shutdown.
A choppy day’s trading on Wall Street finished solidly higher Thursday following a late session surge, but European markets suffered deep declines that dented investor hopes of finishing 2018 with gains.
Frankfurt is now nearly 20 percent down from the start of the year, London has declined more than 14 percent and Paris more than 13 percent.
And while Wall Street staged its best rally in nine years the day after Christmas, US markets opened meekly on Thursday and confidence was hit by disappointing consumer confidence data.
Where stocks head from here is “anyone’s guess” as uncertainty looks set to continue into the first quarter of 2019, Ben Emons, managing director at Medley Global Advisors, told Bloomberg.
Stephen Innes, head of APAC trading at OANDA, warned: “This rollercoaster ride is unlikely to stop anytime soon as investors continue to wear emotions on their sleeve.”
In the commodity markets, oil rebounded by as much as 3 percent in Asian trade Friday after rising US crude inventories pushed prices lower in the previous session — underscoring concerns that a supply glut will continue to weigh down on the market.
Gold prices reached $1,276.83 an ounce, the highest in more than six months.
Key figures around 0230 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 19,982.71 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 25,490.73
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 2,487.87
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1451 from $1.1436 at 2200 GMT
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.59 yen from 111.02 yen
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2668 from $1.2650
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.14 at $45.75 per barrel
Oil – Brent Crude: UP $1.07 at $53.23 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 23,138.82 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.5 percent at 6,584.68 (close