By Kenan Machado
Increased regulatory scrutiny over the borrowings of China's most prolific overseas deal makers weighed on mainland markets Friday, as trading elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region was lackluster.
The Shanghai Composite Index pared earlier losses but was recently down 0.2%, following news that the nation's banking regulator ordered banks to check the borrowings of major Chinese conglomerates like Anbang Insurance Group and Dalian Wanda Group.
The move, which sent shares of the companies' listed units tumbling late Thursday, hurt investor sentiment due to concerns about tighter regulations across China's financial markets at a time of volatile trading, analysts say.
The action was also a reminder of the outsize influence of the government on stock markets, said Dong Yul Lim, a senior sales trader at CMC Markets in Singapore. "It is just the beginning, a sign that any move by the Chinese government can affect the markets."
Those fears had eased somewhat earlier in the week, in the wake of MSCI's decision to include China's domestically-traded A-shares in its emerging markets index next year, said Mr. Lim.
Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average was flat, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was slightly lower, and Singapore's Straits Times Index was off 0.2%.
In South Korea, shares outperformed after the country's president, Moon Jae-in, said he would lobby China to lift its restrictions against his country's businesses following the installation of an U.S. antimissile defense system in Korea, which angered Beijing.
The installation of the controversial U.S. missile-defense system prompted Beijing to target South Korean firms and stop tours of high-spending Chinese visitors.
The benchmark Kospi index was up 0.1% after gaining as much as 0.5% earlier.
Shares of major Korean firms with China exposure were markedly higher, with Hyundai Motor rising 1.9% and cosmetics giant Amorepacific rising 2.8%. Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines were each up about 0.8%.
In Japan, shares were flat despite a strong open, following a preliminary survey released Friday showing that the nation's manufacturing activity slowed in June as new orders grew at their slowest pace in seven months.
"Though the [purchasing managers index] fell rather sharply in June, it still points to a robust expansion in industrial output," said Marcel Thieliant, a senior Japan economist at Capital Economics.
Among key stocks in Japan, videogame maker Nintendo was up 2.3%, while auto makers Mazda Motor, Honda Motor and Nissan Motor added more than 0.5% each.
Write to Kenan Machado at [email protected]