Asian shares flat as oil steadies; China drops on clampdown
HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian shares are ending the week on a subdued note with most indexes little changed Friday, as the price of oil halted its decline to hover near its lowest level in almost a year. Chinese stocks dropped as regulators tightened up scrutiny of some companies.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up 0.1 percent to 20,126.57 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 2,376.59. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was practically unchanged at 25,684.83 but the Shanghai Composite in mainland China lost 0.6 percent to 3,128.49. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 crept up 0.1 percent to 5,710.40.
EBBING ENERGY: Crude oil's extended decline this week and the effect it is having on broader financial markets weighed on investor sentiment and dragged down energy shares. Crude prices rose on Thursday for the first time in four days but prices are still near their lowest level since August. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 18 cents to $42.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 21 cents to settle at $42.74 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 21 cents to $45.43 per barrel.
QUOTEWORTHY: "Falling oil prices continue to temper sentiment in global macro markets," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. "While the Nervous Nellies take solace as oil prices based overnight, don't get too comfortable as the oil patch narrative will likely be the primary catalyst in the coming months."
CHINA CLAMPDOWN: Mainland Chinese shares retreated as official crackdowns hurt sentiment. Authorities ordered three popular internet services, including Sina Weibo, to stop streaming video after they violated censorship rules on sensitive issues. Adding to the pessimism, reports in the South China Morning Post newspaper and financial magazine Caixin on Thursday said the banking regulator is tightening up scrutiny of companies behind a wave of recent overseas acquisitions by ordering banks to check credit-risk exposure to Wanda, Fosun, Anbang and HNA.
MEDICAL SHARES: U.S. health care stocks rallied after the Senate unveiled its proposal to revamp how Americans get medical care. Investors were betting that overseas companies could also benefit from the bill, with Australian bionic ear maker Cochlear up 0.8 percent and blood plasma maker CSL up 1.6 percent.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended little changed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged down less than 0.1 percent to close at 2,434.50. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.1 percent to 21,397.29, and the Nasdaq composite index rose less than 0.1 percent to 6,236.69.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 111.28 yen from 111.32 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1165 from $1.1154.