Asian Shares Mixed As Trade Uncertainty Weighs

Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday as investors reacted to conflicting messages about the state of U.S.-China trade talks.

Trade-deal optimism waned a little bit after reports suggested that a plan to roll back tariffs on each other's goods in phases has met opposition from some advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Chinese shares ended lower even as data showed China's exports and imports contracted less than expected in October. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index shed 14.53 points, or 0.49 percent, to finish at 2,964.18 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.7 percent to 27,651.14.

Chinese exports fell 0.9 percent year-on-year in dollar terms, declining for the third straight month. Economists had expected a 3.9 percent fall following September's 3.2 percent contraction.

Imports declined 6.4 percent from a year earlier, slower than the forecast of 7.8 percent fall. This was the sixth consecutive decrease reflecting subdued demand.

Japanese shares hit a 13-month high after data showed the country's household spending rose at the fastest pace on record in September. The average of household spending in Japan rose an annual 9.5 percent in real terms in September, beating forecasts for an increase of 7.0 percent following the 1.0 percent gain in August.

The Nikkei average inched up 61.55 points, or 0.26 percent, to 23,391.87 while the broader Topix index closed 0.27 percent higher at 1,702.77, its highest level in more than a year.

Automaker Toyota rallied 2.2 percent after announcing a $1.8 billion share buyback. Medical equipment maker Terumo soared 13.4 percent and department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi jumped 11.7 percent after posting strong quarterly earnings.

Cosmetics maker Shiseido slumped 8.3 percent after lowering its full-year forecast.

Australian markets ended little changed with a negative bias. Financials extended gains from the previous session, with banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB rising between 0.2 percent and half a percent.

An overnight rally in oil prices lifted energy stocks, with Woodside Petroleum rallying 2 percent after raising its estimate for dry gas reserves at its Scarborough project. Santos advanced 1.5 percent and Origin Energy climbed 2.1 percent.

Gold miner Evolution Mining slumped 5.8 percent, Newcrest lost 4.6 percent and Norther Star Resources plunged 6.6 percent as gold hovered near one-month lows on positive trade-related headlines.

News Corp. lost 5 percent after impairment charges against the advertising business resulted in the media company reporting a first-quarter loss. REA Group tumbled 3.6 percent as it reported a 14 percent decrease in first-quarter group earnings excluding joint ventures and associates.

Seoul stocks turned lower as investors locked in some recent gains, driven by hopes of a partial U.S.-China trade deal. The benchmark Kospi dropped 7.06 points, or 0.33 percent, to 2,137.23, with technology stocks pacing the decliners. Samsung Electronics fell 1.5 percent and SK Hynix declined 1.6 percent.

New Zealand shares rose sharply, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending up 81.92 points, or 0.76 percent, at 10,876.98.

Shares of Fletcher Building, the country largest construction firm, jumped as much as 5.6 percent after retaining its place in the influential MSCI New Zealand Index. Mercury NZ, a new addition to the index, rallied 3.1 percent.

U.S. stocks hit record highs overnight after the U.S. and China reportedly agreed to remove existing tariffs on each other's goods in phases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.7 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.3 percent to reach fresh record closing highs while the S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent.

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