Investors watched for Chinese trade data due out Friday. Traders were hoping for a "good set of figures" from Beijing following unexpectedly strong March manufacturing and inflation data, said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report.
Major U.S. stock indexes closed unevenly Thursday after losses in health care stocks mostly offset gains in industrial companies and banks. Major European indexes closed mostly higher. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6% to 21,841.95 and the Shanghai Composite Index stood at 3,190.78. Seoul's Kospi advanced 0.2% to 2,228.02 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.2% to 6,236.60.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2% to 29,776.62. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets declined while Taiwan advanced. On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 added less than 0.1% to 2,888.32. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1%, to 26,143.05. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.2%, to 7,947.36.
The U.S. market gave back some of the previous day's gains after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed the majority of officials want to keep interest rates unchanged. Investors want the central bank to take a more laid-back approach to avoid triggering a market slump.
Traders are focused on company earnings reports the next few weeks in hopes of gleaning fresh clues about the trajectory of the economy. Analysts expect companies in the S&P 500 to report a 3.3% drop in earnings per share from a year earlier, which would be the first decline since the spring of 2016. The expected drop in profits is due almost entirely to weaker profit margins.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 15 cents to $63.73 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.03 on Thursday to close at $63.58. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 10 cents to $70.93 per barrel in London. It fell 90 cents the previous session to $70.83.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 111.72 yen from Thursday's 111.66 yen. The euro rose to $1.1289 from $1.1257.