Asian stocks trade mixed despite US gains; yen firms – CNBC

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Asian markets traded mixed on Wednesday despite the slightly firmer lead from Wall Street, which recorded a third consecutive day of gains in the last session.

The Nikkei 225 slipped 0.13 percent, reversing gains seen earlier in the morning as the dollar/yen traded near its session lows.

Automakers traded in negative territory, with Toyota and Honda Motor lower by 0.55 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively. Technology shares were also mostly lower in the morning: SoftBank Group sank 1.47 percent, but Sony was 0.39 percent.

The manufacturing sector clung to gains, although large cap Fanuc Manufacturing slipped 0.13 percent. Energy-related names were also mostly higher.

Meanwhile, fourth-quarter Japan gross domestic product data released on Wednesday showed the economy grew at an annualized 0.5 percent, below a median forecast of 0.9 percent, Reuters reported.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi advanced 0.97 percent, with the technology sector extending gains seen in the last session: Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix rose 2.82 percent and 0.77 percent, respectively.

Shares of Lotte Corporation were down 5.57 percent after Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin was sentenced to two years and six months of jail as part of a wider political scandal in South Korea. Lotte Shopping stock was lower by 0.46 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 traded 0.05 percent below the flat line, with the heavily weighted financials sub-index dragging on the broader index. The sector edged down by 0.65 percent in the morning as most of Australia’s “Big Four” banks traded lower: Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 2.99 percent and ANZ was lower by 0.43 percent.

In other individual stocks, Australian department store operator Myer jumped 3.74 percent after the retailer announced Wednesday that Chief Executive Richard Umbers was stepping down. The search for Umbers’ replacement has commenced immediately, Myer said in a statement.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.62 percent, with financials logging a strong performance in the morning. China Construction Bank added 1.29 percent, HSBC gained 0.81 percent and insurer AIA was up 0.65 percent early on.

Tech heavyweight Tencent rose 1.56 percent while other shares in the sector traded mixed, with Lenovo slipping 0.26 percent and Sunny Optical rising 2.18 percent.

Mainland markets trod water ahead of an upcoming long holiday. The Shanghai composite was lower by 0.03 percent while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.06 percent.

It will be a shortened week for greater China markets, with mainland China markets closing from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 and Hong Kong markets shut from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19 for the Lunar New Year. Other regional markets, including South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, will also finish the week early due to the holiday.

Vietnam’s markets were closed on Wednesday for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the session higher by 39.25 points, or 0.16 percent, at 24,640.45 after slipping as much as 180.24 points earlier in the day. Other major U.S. indexes also closed with gains.

Those gains were a continuation of the rebound from massive losses seen last week: Major U.S. indexes closed in correction territory on Thursday last week after sliding more than 10 percent below their 52-week highs. Markets had been concerned about rising interest rates influencing the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike path.

Meanwhile, yields on U.S. government debt on Tuesday slipped ahead of the release of heavily anticipated U.S. inflation data on Wednesday during U.S. hours.

“A strong U.S. core CPI would likely lead to lower global equity prices, higher U.S. bond yields, and a stronger dollar against most currencies with the possible exception of the safe haven Swiss franc and yen,” Joseph Capurso, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a morning note.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six rivals, was mostly steady after extending losses in the last session. The dollar index stood at 89.689 by 9:24 a.m. HK/SIN, below the 90 handle seen earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the yen firmed against the yen after touching a five-month high in the last session. The dollar last traded at 107.64 after slipping as low as 107.39 in the overnight session.

On the commodities front, oil prices were steady after settling little changed in the last session as markets focused on global oil supply and the softer dollar.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate slipped 0.03 percent to trade at $59.17 per barrel. Brent crude futures edged up 0.06 percent to trade at $62.76.

Here’s the economic calendar for Wednesday (all times in HK/SIN):

  • 12:00 p.m.: Malaysia fourth-quarter GDP
  • 2:30 p.m.: India wholesale prices