Focus on US dollar, corporate earnings

In Asia, futures pointed to a slightly lower open for Japanese equities. Nikkei futures in Chicago were off 0.2 percent at 20,040 and Osaka futures were down 0.25 percent compared to the benchmark index’s last close of 20,079.64.

Meanwhile, Australian SPI futures were lower by 1.16 percent at 5,718 against the S&P/ASX 200’s Thursday close of 5,785.010.

Major indexes on Wall Street closed lower following a decline in technology stocks on a bout of profit taking. The sector had notched an intraday high earlier in the day. The S&P 500 edged down 0.1 percent, or 2.41 points, to close at 2,475.42 and the Nasdaq declined 0.63 percent, or 40.56 points, to end the session at 6,382.19. The Dow Jones industrial average bucked the trend and rose 0.39 percent, or 85.54 points, to close at 21,796.55.

On the earnings front, regional markets are likely to continue focusing their attention on corporate results as businesses continue to report.

Hong Kong-listed insurer AIA Group reported operating profit after tax rose 16 percent to $2.26 billion in the first half of the year, the company said in a statement issued to the Hong Kong Exchange Friday. Other Asian corporates due to report include Yahoo Japan, Nomura Holdings and TEPCO.

Meanwhile, oil prices gained to touch a two-month high in the overnight session after taking a breather during Asian trading hours Thursday.

Brent crude rose 1 percent to settle at $51.49 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 0.6 percent to settle at $49.04 a barrel. Those levels marked the highest settlement prices for both contracts since May 30, according to Reuters.

The economic calendar for Friday is fairly crowded. South Korea kicked off data releases, with industrial output and other indicators at 7:00 a.m. HK/SIN. Japan is expected to release household spending, CPI and unemployment data for June at 7:30 a.m. HK/SIN and retail sales numbers are due at 7:50 a.m. HK/SIN. Singapore is slated to announce second-quarter unemployment figures at 10:30 a.m. HK/SIN.

In Europe, investors are expected to keep an eye on consumer confidence data released at 5:00 p.m. HK/SIN. In addition, U.S. GDP due during the stateside trading day will be closely watched by markets.

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