Asia report: Markets take a breather from DC news frenzy
Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday, with many investors seemingly counting on the Trump administration across the Pacific to provide some positive momentum as they struggled to find direction locally.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.68% as a weaker yen continued to underpin some of the benchmark’s major export stocks.
The yen was last 0.53% weaker against the greenback at JPY 113.7 per $1.
Of the major exporters, Honda added 0.62%, Sony was up 0.37% and Toyota was 0.72% firmer.
Ailing technology conglomerate Toshiba was down 1.4%, as reports emerged locally that the firm wanted to raise at least JPY 1trn in cash by selling a majority stake in its attractive memory chip division.
Toshiba had been looking to raise significant cash as it faced a liquidity crisis, after writing down $6.3bn from its acquired Westinghouse nuclear development business in the US.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.41% at 3,253.24, while the Shenzhen Composite was 0.94% higher at 1,981.14.
South Korea’s Kospi added 0.89% to finish at 2,102.93, with fresh customs data - which showed a jump in exports and imports in the first 20 days of February - giving the benchmark a boost.
The data showed exports were 26.2% higher year-on-year in dollar-denominated terms during the period, while imports were up 26%.
Korea posted a trade surplus of $2.19bn in the data.
Samsung Electronics continued its forward momentum, advancing 0.72%, even as Samsung chief Jay Lee remained under arrest for his alleged involvement in the cash-for-influence scandal surrounding impeached President Park Geun-hye.
Lee was quizzed by Korean authorities on Saturday, and local media reports on Tuesday suggested he could be formally charged next week.
At the time of Lee’s arrest, a number of ratings agencies - including Fitch, Moody’s and S&P - all said his arrest was unlikely to affect their credit ratings of Samsung Electronics.
Also on the Korean technology front, Kakao shares were up 4.25% after the Alibaba-related Ant Financial announced it was investing $200m into the messaging app creator’s fledgling mobile payments system.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.76% at 23,963.63.
Banking giant HSBC confirmed its pre-tax profit was down 62% during the session, blaming slow growth in its main markets of Hong Kong and the UK, while also posting one-time charges at a number of its businesses.
Hong Kong-listed shares in HSBC were down 5%, while close rival in the region Standard Chartered was off 1.83%.
The mixed day in Asia came as traders took a breather from the relentless barrage of information from the US, with markets and politics taking the day off for the Presidents’ Day holiday.
“With US markets closed for Presidents' Day, it was perhaps apt that President Trump gave markets some reprieve from the combined - but confused - effects of 'Trumpflation' and 'Donald Doubt',” read a note from analysts at Mizuho Bank.
Oil prices were mixed throughout Asian hours, though they were firmly in the green in early European trading, with Brent crude last up 1.28% at $56.91 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate adding 0.94% to $54.53.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 managed to lose 0.07% to close at 5,791.02, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 added 0.2% to 7,115.69.
The down under dollars were both weaker, with the Aussie last retreating 0.35% to AUD 1.3051 against the greenback, and the Kiwi losing 0.68% to NZD 1.4006 per $1.