Asian markets mostly up as volatile week draws to close

Tokyo's Nikkei ended 0.2 percent higher, while Shanghai put on 0.2 percent, with Sydney 0.2 percent higher.
Tokyo's Nikkei ended 0.2 percent higher, while Shanghai put on 0.2 percent, with Sydney 0.2 percent higher.PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets headed into the weekend on a cautious note Friday (Sept 1), bringing an end to a volatile week, with eyes now fixed on the release of key US jobs data and the impact of deadly storm Harvey.

Traders were given another positive lead from Wall Street, where all three main indexes ended on a high after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects to overhaul the tax code by the end of the year.

He said details of the plan would be released within the month, with President Donald Trump calling for a 20-point reduction in the corporate tax rate to 15 percent.

The New York tycoon's promise to slash tax, ramp up infrastructure spending and wipe out red tape was one of the key drivers of a global markets rally in the months after his November election win.

Mnuchin's comments came a day after data showing forecast-busting growth in the US economy and private-sector jobs, helping put aside Tuesday's North Korean missile launch over Japan that fanned fresh geopolitical tensions.

"After an interesting month of increased market volatility, heightened geopolitical tensions, a monstrous storm in Texas and Louisiana and rising uncertainty about the political situation in the US and around the debt ceiling, stocks closed out the month with a rally," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Investors are keeping tabs on Washington, where a fractured Congress must agree to raise the country's borrowing limit to avoid a disastrous government shutdown and possible debt default.

Tokyo's Nikkei ended 0.2 percent higher, while Shanghai put on 0.2 percent, with Sydney 0.2 percent higher.

But Hong Kong was 0.1 percent off and Seoul slipped 0.2 percent.

Wellington and Taipei eked out small gains.

In early European trade London rose 0.2 percent, Frankfurt gained 0.4 percent and Paris jumped 0.6 percent.

OANDA senior market analyst Craig Erlam said: "The week started with a missile launch from North Korea and tropical storm in the US but attention has gradually been diverted to the fundamentals, with numerous pieces of data being released over the last couple of days.

"Risk appetite has gradually improved throughout the week following a rather shaky start, which is normal during periods of heightened geopolitical risk."

Markets will get a better idea about its plans with the release of the government's non-farm payrolls figures later Friday.

Oil prices resumed their downward momentum as dealers assess the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the crude-rich Gulf Coast, with dozens of refineries out of action meaning the commodity cannot be processed.