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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks fall as Middle East tensions rise

After US airstrike kills Iran general, oil price bump boosts related shares

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside Japan declined Friday alongside U.S. equity futures after a U.S. airstrike on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed an Iranian commander, a development that will worsen tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The Nikkei Asia300 index fell 0.3% to 1,393.90 at close after having advanced earlier in the day on the back of record highs on Wall Street.

The gauge turned lower and futures on the S&P 500 fell after the U.S. airstrike on Baghdad airport killed a revered Iranian military leader. The U.S. said Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force, was killed early on Friday in the airstrike on his convoy at Baghdad airport, according to a Reuters report.

The attack came a few days after the U.S. President warned Iran that it would have to "pay a very big price" for the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iran demonstrators.

Safe-haven currency the Japanese yen reached a two-month high against the U.S. dollar on Friday, while most other Asian currencies declined.

Oil prices jumped, boosting energy-related shares on the A300 gauge. PetroChina advanced 2.8%, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. added 1.5% and CNOOC rose 2%. Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production climbed 2%, South Korea's SK Innovation closed 2% higher and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. climbed 0.4%.

Indian fuel retailers fell as rising crude oil prices hurt their margins. Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum lost at least 1.1% each.

Mainland Chinese lenders slipped Friday after advancing yesterday in the wake of the cut in reserve requirements by the Chinese central bank. China Construction Bank dropped 1.2% and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ended 0.8% lower.

Hyundai Motor fell 1.7% and affiliate Kia Motors declined 1.2%. The South Korean carmakers late yesterday said their combined global sales last year were 7.19 million vehicles, which, according to Reuters, is the lowest in seven years.

Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics added 0.5%. The company said Friday that as of November last year, Samsung accounted for 53.9% of the global 5G smartphone market.

-- Nimesh Vora

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