Asian Shares Mixed As Tensions Rise In Middle East

Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Friday as investors weighed the prospects of heightened geopolitical tensions after a U.S. airstrike killed top Iranian military personnel, Qassem Soleimani.

The Japanese markets were closed for public holidays. Chinese stocks slipped into the red but posted a fifth weekly gain amid a thaw in Sino-U.S. trade tensions and hopes of more policy easing to shore up the economy.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index slid marginally to 3,083.79 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 0.32 percent to 28,451.50.

Australian markets rose notably, with banks and miners leading the surge. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 42.90 points, or 0.64 percent, to finish at 6,733.50, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 45.20 points, or 0.66 percent, at 6,855.20.

Strong iron ore prices helped lift miners, with BHP and Rio Tinto ending up half a percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. The big four banks rose between half a percent and 0.7 percent.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search climbed 1-3 percent as oil prices jumped as much as 4 percent on U.S.-Iran tensions. Healthcare stocks also advanced, with heavyweight CSL adding 0.8 percent.

Seoul stocks gave up early gains to end largely unchanged and the Korean won fell sharply against the dollar on escalating Middle East tensions.

The benchmark Kospi ended up 1.29 points at 2,176.46. Refiners SK Innovation and S-Oil rose around 2 percent while automaker Hyundai Motor declined 1.7 percent and its affiliate Kia Motors lost 1.2 percent.

New Zealand shares rose sharply as traders returned to their desks after two days of holidays. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 101.24 points, or 0.88 percent, to 11,593.14 on optimism over Sino-U.S. trade deal and China's policy easing move.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was up 0.3 percent after the release of trade data. Malaysia's exports fell unexpectedly in November, while imports dropped at a slower-than-expected rate, a government report showed.

U.S. stocks hit fresh record closing highs on the first trading day of 2020 as trade war worries eased and China's central bank said it will free up more money for lending.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 1.3 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.8 percent.

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