CANBERA (Alliance News) - The Asian markets turned in a mixed performance on Friday, as commodities declined and regional stocks got little direction from Wall Street following mixed earnings and economic data. Lingering concerns about ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and IMF's weak global forecast also kept investors cautious heading into the weekend.
In an update to its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund slashed its 2014 global growth forecast to 9.4% this year, down from 3.7% it predicted in April, citing weaker growth in the US, China and several important emerging markets.
Chinese shares rose sharply as money market rates declined and Thursday's PMI data fueled hopes the economy is stabilizing. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index gained 1.02% to finish at 2,126.61.
Hong Kong'sHang Seng index added 0.31% to close at 24,216.01, a three-year high.
Japanese shares rallied as the yen weakened, sending exporter shares higher. The benchmark Nikkei average rose 1.13% to 15,457.87, its highest level in six months, while the broader Topix index advanced 0.9%. Sony Corp jumped 2.8%, Panasonic advanced 2%, Mazda Motor rallied 1.7%, Hitachi rose 1.2% and Nikon added 1.1%. Industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp soared 5.3% after posting strong earnings for the April - June quarter.
Itochu Corp climbed 2.5% on a report it is cementing ties with Thailand'sCharoen Pokphand Group. Advantest plunged 6.7% after its profit missed estimates. Canon Inc. shares dropped 0.2%. The world's largest camera maker posted better-than-expected quarterly profit, but lowered its full-year sales forecast, citing slowing demand amid a consumer shift to smartphones for taking pictures.
On the economic front, consumer prices in Japan climbed 3.6% in June from a year earlier, official data showed, topping forecasts for a 3.5% rise and slowing from 3.7% in May. Core consumer prices, excluding the volatile costs of food, advanced 3.3% - matching forecasts and down from 3.4% in the previous month. Separately, central bank data showed that corporate service prices in Japan rose 3.6% year-over-year in June, coming in line with expectations.
Australian shares slipped from six-year highs as investors paused for breath after seven sessions of gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1% to 5,583.5, dragged down by mining and energy stocks as commodity prices dropped. Miners bore the brunt of the selling, with BHP Billiton down 0.2% and Rio Tinto closing down 0.3%, while Newcrest, Iluka Resources, Orica and Alumina fell 1-2%.
In the energy sector, Oil Search, Santos and Origin Energy fell between 0.2% and 1.1%. Banks gained ground, with Commonwealth, NAB, Westpac and ANZ rising between 0.3% and 0.5%. QBE Insurance gained 1.2% and Suncorp Group added 1.1%.
Seoul shares rose modestly to hit a fresh high for 2014 amid renewed buying by foreign funds. Overseas investors remained net buyers and bought shares worth a net 64 billion won, preliminary data showed. The benchmark Kospi average closed up 0.36% at 2,033.85. In economic news, consumer confidence in South Korea slid slightly in July from the previous month, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea revealed, showing a score of 105.
New Zealand shares advanced, with Xero pacing the gainers, a day after the cloud-based accounting software firm said it is mulling a New York listing as early as 2015. Shares of Xero soared 5.7%, extending Thursday's 4.3% rally, while property stocks with high dividend yields such as Kiwi Income Property Trust, Precinct Properties New Zealand and Property For Industry all rose more than a percent. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 0.38% to 5,194.27.
In economic releases, New Zealand's business confidence dropped further in July but a majority of firms still remain optimistic, the results of a survey by the ANZ Bank showed. The headline index decreased to 39.7 from 42.8 in June.
Elsewhere, India's Sensex was down 0.7% on profit taking as caution set in after eight consecutive sessions of gains, driven by renewed capital inflows. The benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were down between 0.2% and 0.9%.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services retained Malaysia's sovereign ratings at 'A-', citing its strong external balance sheet and considerable monetary flexibility. According to the figures from the Department of Statistics, Malaysia's unemployment rate came in at 2.9% in May, the same as in the previous month.
US stocks ended largely unchanged overnight, as investors digested a flood of corporate earnings and a slew of economic data, with reports on jobless claims, new home sales and manufacturing activity painting a mixed picture of the economy.