Asia markets mixed amid choppy trade as dollar steadies

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with choppy trade seen in Japan and South Korea as stock indexes hovered around the flat line. More convincing gains were seen in Taiwan and Hong Kong markets.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index shed 0.13 percent after giving up gains seen earlier after choppy trade. Manufacturing stocks which traded slightly higher early on were mixed in the afternoon, with Fanuc Manufacturing trading lower by 0.22 percent.

Automakers and technology names were also mixed, while bank stocks came under pressure. Among blue chip names, Toyota slipped 0.14 percent, Honda rose 1.06 percent and SoftBank Group slid 1.04 percent.

Meanwhile, the Kospi edged up by 0.09 percent, with the index moving in and out of positive territory through the session.

Steelmakers traded lower after the South Korean government submitted a World Trade Organization complaint over U.S. duties. Posco fell 0.96 percent and Hyundai Steel was down 0.95 percent on the day.

Of note, the governor of the country’s central bank on Wednesday said it was “prepared to respond” should the Federal Reserve raise interest rates more aggressively than markets were expecting, Reuters reported.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 hovered around the flat line and last traded lower by 0.05 percent as investors focused on earnings releases. Gains in the consumer staples and discretionary sectors were offset by losses in the materials sector. Major miners were in the red: Shares of Fortescue Metals Group fell 3.92 percent after the company earlier reported that net profit after tax fell 44 percent to $681 million in the six months ending December.

BHP was down 4.82 percent after the mining major reported first-half earnings on Tuesday.

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers reported on Tuesday that first-half net profit after tax came in at 212 million Australian dollars ($167 million) — an 86.6 percent decline compared to one year ago.

Excluding a A$1.3 billion writedown, net profit stood at A$1.54 billion ($1.21 billion), a 2.7 percent decline from a year ago. Wesfarmers shares were up 2.26 percent.

“Global risk sentiments may remain rangebound post-holidays,” OCBC Treasury Research said in a morning note.

Gains in Hong Kong were more decisive, with the Hang Seng Index rising 0.91 percent as financials led gains on the index. China Construction Bank rose 1.68 percent to contribute 48 points to the index’s overall 279.76-point gain before the lunch break, while HSBC tacked on 0.93 percent.

The property sector turned positive as the session wore on: Large cap property stocks carved out gains, with Country Garden gaining 1.77 percent, although CK Asset was off by 0.22 percent. Meanwhile, oil-related and technology stocks also climbed, with CNOOC rising 1.59 percent and index heavyweight Tencent advancing 1.3 percent.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s benchmark Taiex rose 2.64 percent as markets re-opened for trade after the Lunar New Year holiday. Apple suppliers put in a strong showing in the morning, with Largan Precision and Pegatron rising 7.88 percent and 3.46 percent, respectively.

Markets in China remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 1.01 percent, or 254.63 points, snapping a six-day winning streak. The steep losses came on the back of Walmart stock tumbling 10.2 percent after the retailer reported lower-than-expected earnings. Other U.S. stock indexes saw smaller declines.

Higher U.S. bond yields pressured stocks in the last session. The 2-year Treasury note yield stood at 2.26 percent on Wednesday after touching its highest levels in almost a decade overnight. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note last stood at 2.89 percent.

The dollar firmed on Wednesday, extending gains made overnight following the overnight U.S. Treasury auction. The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six rivals, stood at 89.817 at 12:10 p.m. HK/SIN. Against the yen, the dollar edged up to trade at 107.72, above the 106 handle it started the week at.

Ahead, investors awaited the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve due during U.S. hours.

On the commodities front, U.S. crude futures declined 1.07 percent to trade at $61.13 per barrel. Brent crude futures edged down by 0.84 percent to trade at $64.70.

Source: CNBC