Markets in Asia ease as investors shrug off strong US lead

Markets in Asia were subdued on Tuesday, shrugging off gains seen on Wall Street as recent U.S.-China trade tensions cooled. Optimism over easing in those tensions that had given stocks in the region a lift in the last session appeared to fade slightly, as major markets traded moderately lower.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 tracked lower by 0.09 percent after starting the session with slight gains. The broader Topix slipped 0.27 percent, with most of its 33 subsectors trading lower as miners and insurers led losses.

Several index heavyweights, however, clung to gains, with Fanuc higher by 0.78 percent and Fast Retailing rising 0.77 percent.

Over in China, the Shanghai composite traded lower by 0.4 percent while the Shenzhen Composite shed 0.1 percent.

Elsewhere, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.81 percent amid broad-based losses seen in all of its subindexes. The country’s “Big Four” banks all traded lower, as did major miners. ANZ fell 1.5 percent, leading losses among its peers, while BHP was down 0.88 percent.

MSCI’s index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, meanwhile, inched higher by 0.1 percent. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Developments in the trade relationship between the U.S. and China have been in focus for investors. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that bilateral trade talks with China had “made very meaningful progress” and that it was now up to both parties to implement what had been discussed.

Mnuchin’s Sunday comment that a trade war between the countries was “on hold” cheered investors in Asia and Europe on Monday as their trade-related fears were put to rest.

Despite the broader sense of calm in markets now that trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies had eased, some still expected the better outlook to be subject to change.

The U.S. “could easily come back with accusations of insufficient change at a moment’s notice, probably at a time when it suited them, the mid-term election in November for example,” Robert Carnell, chief economist of ING, said in a note.

Slight declines in the region came despite U.S. stocks closing in positive territory, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing above the 25,000 mark for the first time since mid-March.

On the commodities front, oil prices were slightly higher after touching their highest levels in three and a half years overnight. Markets were concerned over U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela following the latter’s recent election, the results of which were widely condemned.

U.S. crude futures edged up 0.28 percent to $72.44 per barrel and Brent crude futures added 0.19 percent to trade at $79.37.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of peers, traded at 93.564, pausing after its recent rally. Against the yen, the dollar was steady at 110.85 at 11:40 a.m. HK/SIN, just under the 111 handle seen on Monday.

Meanwhile, the euro got some reprieve after taking a hit on recent uncertainty in Italian politics. The common currency was little changed at $1.1785.

In corporate news, Sony said it had reached an agreement to acquire Mubadala Investment’s stake in EMI Music Publishing for $1.9 billion. Sony shares were down 0.74 percent, paring steeper declines seen earlier.

Source: CNBC