Asia report: Markets make modest gains as investors look for direction
Markets in Asia finished mostly higher on Monday, with investors still turning their direction stateside, awaiting further information from President Trump on his economic and tax reform plans.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 finished almost flat, adding 0.09% to 19,251.08, with the yen weakening against the greenback.
It was last 0.25% weaker at JPY 113.12 per $1.
That weaker currency made it a green day for the some of the country’s major exporters, with Toyota up 0.5%.
Others didn’t fare so well, however, with Canon down 0.3%, Honda off 0.33% and Sony dipping 1.1%.
SoftBank shares were 3.18% firmer after it emerged the company was keen to give up control of US mobile carrier Sprint to competitor T-Mobile US in order to see the two networks merge.
Fresh official data showed exports rose 1.3% in Japan year-on-year in January, which was well off the Reuters-polled forecast for a 4.7% rise.
Exports to the US fell 6.6% in the month, and imports were up 11.9%.
Overall, Japan’s trade balance stood at a deficit of JPY 1.09trn, much larger than the estimate for a JPY 636.8bn deficit.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was up 1.23% at 3,241.45, while the Shenzhen Composite was 0.89% higher at 1,962.52.
In South Korea, the Kospi was up 0.18% at 2,084.39, with Samsung Electronics adding 2.11%.
Samsung chief Jay Lee, who was arrested on Friday in connection with the cash-for-influence scandal surrounding impeached President Park Geun-hye, was reportedly questioned by authorities on Saturday.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished 0.47% higher at 24,146.08.
It was a day of modest movements in Asian markets, which reflected performance in the US on Friday as investors awaited more details from the Trump administration.
“President Trump promised a 'phenomenal' tax announcement in 2-3 weeks, so as the clock ticks down to some form of announcement, market inertia is set to reign,” noted National Australia Bank global co-head of foreign exchange strategy Ray Attrill.
Oil prices were slightly higher during Asian trading, with Brent crude last up 0.69% at $56.20 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate advancing 0.54% to $54.07.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.18% to 5,795.09, with most sub-indexes in the red.
Shares in WorleyParsons plummeted 12.78% after the firm swung to a first-half net loss of AUD 2.4m, compared to the AUD 23.1m profit it recorded at the same time last year.
New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 added 0.08% to finish at 7,099.49, led higher by airport operator AIAL, which rose 2.3%.
Investors prepared for a week of surprises on the telecoms front, with the Commerce Commission regulator set to release its decision on the proposed merger between Vodafone’s New Zealand operation and subscription broadcaster Sky - no relation to the London-listed namesake - on Thursday.
There were serious competition concerns surrounding the merger, as Sky and Vodafone operate the only satellite and cable subscription television services in the country, respectively.
The pair had indicated their intention to go ahead with the merger immediately should the regulator approve it, ignoring the usual convention to give other interested parties time to consider their legal options.
Broadband and mobile provider Spark, which is Vodafone’s primary competitor in New Zealand, was seeking a court order for a 36-hour waiting period after the Commerce Commission decision, allowing it time to review its legal options to further oppose the merger.
In trading on Monday, Spark shares were 0.3% higher, while Sky was down 0.9%.
The down under dollars were marginally stronger, with the Aussie last ahead 0.06% at AUD 1.3037 against the greenback and the Kiwi advancing 0.04% to NZD 1.3917 per $1.