Stocks in Australia and Japan drop; major Asia markets out for holidays

Stocks in Japan and Australia slipped in Friday afternoon trade, with most major markets in Asia closed for holidays.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 3.44%, with shares of major miner BHP plunging more than 6%. Major banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group also saw their shares fall more than 4% each.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 2.47% in afternoon trade, with shares of Tokyo Electron dropping more than 5%. The Topix index also shed 1.81%.

Major markets across the region — including China, Hong Kong, South Korea, India and Singapore — are closed on Friday for holidays.

On the economic data front, South Korean exports fell in April at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis, Reuters reported Friday citing data from the trade ministry. Exports fell 24.3% year-on-year in April, the worst contraction since May 2009. Still, it was slightly smaller than expectations of a 25.4% drop in a Reuters survey.

The data release from South Korea, a major Asian economy and exporting powerhouse, could provide clues on the scale of the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic. Globally, more than 3.2 million people have been infected while at least 233,000 lives have been lost, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Overnight stateside, the major averages fell on the day but capped off their best monthly performances in years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 288.14 points lower at 24,345.72 while the S&P 500 slid 0.9% to end its trading day at 2,912.43. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3% to close at 8,889.55.

Still, Thursday’s moves did little to dent the monthly gains for the three indexes.

For April, the S&P 500 posted its third-largest monthly gain since World War II, surging 12.7% in April. It was also its biggest one-month gain since 1987. The Dow had its fourth-largest post-war monthly rally with an 11.1% gain. The Dow also had its best month in 33 years. The Nasdaq surged 15.5% in April, its biggest monthly gain since June 2000.

Meanwhile, oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, as international benchmark Brent crude futures gained 2% to $27.06 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also rose 4.3% to $19.65 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 99.136 following a decline from levels above 100 seen earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.13 per dollar after weakening sharply yesterday from levels around 106.5. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6463 after seeing highs around $0.657 yesterday.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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