Asian markets mostly higher despite global uncertainty

Most Asian markets closed higher on Thursday amid uncertainties surrounding the global economic outlook as well as the ongoing U.S.-China trade fight.

The mainland Chinese markets, watched in relation to the ongoing trade fight between Beijing and Washington, recovered from earlier losses. The Shanghai composite rose around 0.4 percent to close at about 2,591.69 and the Shenzhen component advanced 0.661 percent to finish its trading day at approximately 7,573.52. The Shenzhen composite gained 0.457 percent to close at about 1,322.30.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also climbed by more than 0.2 percent, as of its final hour of trading.

Japan’s Nikkei 225, however, closed fractionally lower at 20,574.63, down by 0.09 percent. The Topix index recovered from earlier losses to finish its trading day 0.36 percent higher at 1,552.60.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.81 percent to close at 2,145.03 as shares of chipmaker SK Hynix jumped 5.54 percent despite reporting quarterly earnings which were below expectations. The company attributed the profit decline — its first in two years — to lower chip prices.

Sentiment overall during Asian trading hours, however, appeared fragile as concerns remained over the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations following reports on Tuesday that the U.S. had canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied that an official meeting had been canceled, telling CNBC that no immediate meetings had been scheduled other than the visit by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He next week.

Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 bounced higher 0.38 percent to close at 5,865.70 with the energy sector adding more than 2 percent.

The country released employment data that came in above expectations: there were 21,600 new jobs created in December, beating analysts’ expectations of 16,500. The unemployment rate also surpassed forecasts, coming in at 5.0 percent as compared to expectations of 5.1 percent.

“The key message here is Australia’s labor market is still looking quite strong,” Paul Bloxham, HSBC’s chief economist for Australia, New Zealand and global commodities, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” minutes after the data release.

“If you’re in Australia, there’s really no better time than now to be looking for a job,” Bloxham said. “There are more jobs out there as a proportion of the work force than ever before.”

The Australian dollar was at $0.7098 after touching an earlier high of $0.7166.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.164 after seeing an earlier session low of 96.044.

The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 109.65 against the dollar after seeing lows around 109.9 yesterday.

— Reuters and CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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