Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index finished a tick above the flatline, throwing away earlier gains as the dollar-yen pulled back, but held on to a fresh 15-year high. The key stock index has finished at multi-year highs five times over the past six sessions.
Among the raft of data released before market open, the closely-watched consumer inflation eased for a sixth straight month in January, pushing the Bank of Japan further from its 2 percent target. Stripping out the effects of a sale tax hike, the nationwide consumer price index (CPI) rose a less-than-expected 0.2 percent, down from 0.5 percent in December.
Exporter stocks finished mixed; Automakers such as Honda, Suzuki Motor and Toyota Motor made losses between 0.5 to 1.2 percent, while Sony and Panasonic held on to gains of over 2 percent each.
Yamaha Motor advanced 2 percent on news that it aims to start making and selling two-seater cars in Europe.
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Mainland indices mixed
China’s Shanghai Composite index closed up 0.4 percent to a one-month high, as markets digested news that five Chinese city and rural commercial banks have been approved by the central bank to cut their reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by an extra 50 basis points late Wednesday. However, a broadly dismal picture in the financial sector capped the bourse’s advances.
Bank of China slid 0.7 percent, while Bank of Communications and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China shed 0.5 and 0.2 percent each. Founder Securities and Citic Securities lost over 1 percent each.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index closed down 0.3 percent. Major jewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook plunged over 5 percent after reporting weaker same-store sales during the recent Lunar New Year holiday. Chinese carmaker BYD lost nearly 3 percent after it posted a 21 percent drop in its 2014 preliminary full-year net profit late Thursday.
Focus was also on shares of Standard Chartered, which rallied 2.4 percent, after news of a leadership shake-up.