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James Hyerczyk
Asia Pacific Markets

The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes closed mixed on Friday as investors showed little reaction to the U.S. presidential debate, while maintaining their focus on the outcome of U.S. fiscal stimulus negotiations. The tight trading ranges suggested that investors were tightening positions with less than two weeks to go before the U.S. presidential and congressional elections on November 3, while awaiting a breakthrough in stimulus talks in Washington.

In the cash market on Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 23516.59, up 42.32 or +0.18%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 24879.85, up 93.72 or +0.38% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 2360.81, up 5.76 or +0.24%.

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China’s Shanghai Index settled at 3278.00, down 34.50 or -1.04% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 6167.00, down 6.80 or -0.11%.

Early Focus on Semiconductor-Related Stocks

Semiconductor-related stocks in Asia-Pacific were watched on Friday after chipmaker Intel reported mixed quarterly numbers.

Intel Corp on Thursday reported that margins tumbled in the latest quarter as consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending, news that sent its shares down 10%.

Intel sold a higher volume of less-profitable chips in its PC business, driving operating margins down to 36% in the third quarter from 44% a year earlier.

In Japan, shares of Tokyo Electron dropped 2.74% while Advantest slipped 1.08%. In South Korea, industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics saw its stock rise 0.17% while chipmaker SK Hynix gained 0.72%.

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US Influences:  Presidential Debate, Fiscal Stimulus Hopes

The final debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democrat challenger Joe Biden on Thursday presented few surprises for election watchers but slightly reinforced investor caution heading into the November 3 poll.

A widening lead in polls by Biden is prompting many investors to bet on a Biden presidency and also a “blue sweep”, where Democrats win both chambers of Congress.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday a deal on new coronavirus stimulus was “just about there” though she warned that passing it into law will take time as she and the Trump administration attempt to iron out remaining issues.

Japan Shares End Higher on Stimulus Hopes

Japanese shares ticked up on Friday after signs of progress in U.S. stimulus talks helped Wall Street finish higher overnight, while some investors refrained from making big bets ahead of a string of earnings reports next week.

While Japanese investors followed Wall Street’s lead from Thursday, led by positive economic data and the prospect of more fiscal stimulus, they showed little reaction to the final U.S. presidential debate ahead of the November election.

In stock-related news, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries climbed more than 6.5% after Reuters reported it would freeze the development of its SpaceJet regional jet.

Meanwhile, online games developer Nexon Co soared 17%, having hit the daily limit earlier after media reported the company would replace FamilyMart Co in the Nikkei stock average. Other companies that were seen as potential replacements, such as Kakaku.com Inc and Zozo Inc dropped more than 7% each.

The largest percentage loser in the index was Hitachi Construction Machinery, plunging more than 16% after media reported Hitachi Ltd was considering a partial sale of its stake in the company.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.
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