Japan and Australian stocks fell early Friday as oil and the dollar declined and markets in the region looked ahead to Lunar New Year holidays next week.
Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 1.2 percent and Australia's ASX fell 0.5 percent. Singapore's STI rose 0.3 percent and South Korea's KOSPI was little changed.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rose from 0.1 to 0.5 percent.
The dollar fell for the second day amid rising speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve would hold off on raising interest rates — many had expected four increases starting in March — after the head of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said the agency should be patient because of slowing growth and tightening financial conditions. His New York counterpart made similar statements on Wednesday. Low rates make the dollar less attractive and a weak dollar makes it more expensive for Americans to buy goods from Asia and the rest of the world.
Oil fell amid doubts that efforts to get oil producing countries to meet about boosting prices would succeed. Venezuela's oil minister met with his counterpart in Qatar and will meet on Sunday with his counterpart in Saudi Arabia but no nation has supported a meeting. Optimism about a meeting — sparked earlier in the week by a Russian statement that Saudi Arabia had suggested a production cut — have faded. Low oil prices hurt energy companies and the many industries that supply them around the world.
“The question is what can we hang our hat on right now? It’s not earnings, it’s not what central banks are able to do and it’s certainly not what we’re seeing with economic data,” said Yousef Abbasi, the global market strategist at JonesTrading Institutional Services LLC in New York, as reported by Bloomberg. “Central banks continue to take their targets down on growth and inflation and part of today’s frustration came with the whippiness of crude.”
The Shanghai Stock Exchange is closed all week next week while Hong Kong will be shut through Wednesday and Singapore through Tuesday all for Lunar New Year holidays. Tokyo will be shut on Thursday for National Founding Day.