Asia markets trade mixed, Toshiba shares rise 10.89%

Big 5

Japan’s Nikkei 225 traded down 0.18 percent, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was up 0.18 percent.

In Japan, Toshiba shares climbed 10.89 percent in morning trade, following Tuesday reports the troubled conglomerate was looking to raise at least $8.8 billion from the sale of a majority stake in its flash memory chip business after booking a $6.3 billion writedown on its U.S. nuclear business.

Rakuten shares jumped 8.91 percent, after the company announced a share buyback program on Tuesday. Rakuten said it will buy back 8.4 percent of total shares outstanding, excluding treasury stock, for a maximum acquisition value of 100 billion yen.

Nomura analyst Yoshitaka Nagao said in a note the timing and scale of the buyback announcement likely suggested Rakuten’s management is confident that earnings will recover.

The yen traded at 113.54 to the dollar, relatively weaker than levels reached earlier in the week and giving some boost to Japanese export stocks. Shares of Toyota rose 0.1 percent, Sony was up 1.36 percent and Canon added 0.52 percent.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 reversed losses to trade up 0.12 percent, but shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 2.69 percent, likely dragging the financial subindex, which shed 0.5 percent.

Australian vitamin maker Blackmores was down 9.47 percent after the company reported net profit in the six months to December 31 fell 41 percent to 28.5 million Australian dollars ($21.9 million), compared with A$75.8 million expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

BHP Billiton traded down 0.22 percent after the Anglo Australian miner reported on Tuesday first-half net profit rose almost eight-fold to $3.24 billion from $412 million a year earlier, but still missed forecasts for $3.4 billion.

In Sydney, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor, Philip Lowe spoke at an event where he suggested further interest rate cuts would not benefit Australia as it ran the risk of increasing household debt.

“Then at some point in the future, households having decided that they had borrowed too much, might cut back consumption sharply, hurting the overall economy and employment,” Lowe said.

He emphasized flexible inflation targeting with a medium-term focus remained the RBA’s monetary policy framework. At its February meeting, the central bank left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 0.61 percent in early trade. Chinese mainland markets moved fractionally, with the Shanghai composite down 0.03 percent and the Shenzhen composite up 0.2 percent.

The session in Asia followed a positive day in the U.S. market as traders returned from a public holiday, with the S&P 500 climbing 0.6 percent.

“U.S. stock markets are currently a great example of the old trading adage that the trend is your friend,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

In the currency market, the dollar index traded at 101.27, rising from levels below 101.2 from earlier in the week.

“With no major U.S. economic reports on the calendar this week, the main question before us is whether Wednesday’s FOMC minutes will give the dollar the kick it needs to propel higher,” said Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management.

The Australian dollar fetched $0.7694, while the euro slipped to $1.0548 from the previous week’s levels above $1.060 amid growing political uncertainty in Europe.

Lien said investors are nervous about the anti-EU sentiment of political candidates in France and the Netherlands ahead of elections. “The fear is that Europe will become even more fractured in the coming years, as anti-EU, populist sentiment spreads across the region,” she said.

Elsewhere, oil prices advanced Wednesday morning during Asian trade. Brent crude rose 0.28 percent to $56.82 a barrel, following a nearly one percent-gain in the previous session.

U.S. crude gained 0.24 percent to $54.46, after rising one percent on Tuesday.

Reports said OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said at an industry conference in London that January data showed conformity from participating OPEC nations to cut back on output and said oil inventories will decline further this year.

But not all traders are convinced.

“We still have some doubts about the true compliance levels of OPEC/non-OPEC when one strips out Saudi Arabia’s hard work,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

Source: CNBC