Asian stocks climb and the dollar holds onto gains as North Korea and Irma concerns fade

Most indexes in Asia continued their ascent on Tuesday, following a firm lead from Wall Street as concerns faded over the potential damage of Hurricane Irma and as Korean Peninsula tensions took a backseat.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.23 percent as the dollar held onto overnight gains against the yen. Major exporters climbed: Honda was up 2.05 percent, Sharp rose 3.02 percent and Nintendo added 2.73 percent.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi gained 0.23 percent. Blue chips, however, were a mixed picture: Samsung Electronics declined 0.6 percent, but SK Hynix rose 0.81 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 tacked on 0.73 percent, with bank stocks driving gains in the broader index. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index was up 1.42 percent.

Greater China markets, meanwhile, were mostly flat. The Hang Seng Index shed 0.01 percent. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite traded higher by 0.07 percent and the Shenzhen Composite added 0.12 percent.

Trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange was suspended on Tuesday due to flooding in Manila following a storm.

Stocks on Wall Street closed higher on Monday as investors assessed the damage from Irma, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding 259.58 points to close at 22,057.37. Hurricane Irma, originally a Category 5 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved inland. Irma hit the coast of Florida over the weekend and markets grew optimistic after the hurricane looked to have caused less damage than originally thought.

Investors also kept an eye on geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the United Nations Security Council voted to increase sanctions against North Korea on Monday.

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test earlier this month. The additional UN sanctions included a limit on the amount of crude oil imported by the North, according to Reuters.

The increased global confidence led to the dollar firming. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six currencies, stood at 91.917 at 12:16 p.m. HK/SIN, holding onto gains made overnight. The index had fallen touched a 2-1/2-year low of 91.011 last Friday.

The U.S. currency was also steady against the yen, with the greenback last fetching 109.32 yen compared to levels around the 108.5 handle seen toward the end of the Asian trading session on Monday.

Yields of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 8 basis points to stand at 2.13 percent on Monday after falling to their lowest levels since November last week.

In currencies, China’s central bank set the yuan midpoint lower at 6.5277 a dollar, breaking an 11-day rising streak, Reuters said. The People’s Bank of China lets the yuan spot rate against the dollar rise or fall up to 2 percent relative to the midpoint. The move took place after the PBOC unwound some measures taken to support the currency.

The on-shore yuan weakened to trade at 6.5415 to the dollar at 12:18 p.m. HK/SIN after trading as high as 6.4346 last week. The offshore yuan was traded at 6.5471 to the U.S. currency.

While markets read the changes as a “policy desire to keep yuan strength in check,” the move was merely a “return to liberalization as capital outflow fears abate,” said Chang Wei Liang, a strategist at Mizuho Bank, in a note. He cautioned against over-interpretation of the change in rules as policy guidance on the yuan.

On the energy front, oil prices were largely unchanged. U.S. crude was off 0.1 percent at $48.02 a barrel after settling 1.2 percent higher overnight.

Brent crude futures edged down 0.17 percent to trade at $53.75. The spike in oil prices overnight came as refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast began to resume operations after a shutdown due to Hurricane Harvey, Reuters reported.

In corporate news, Spain is looking into Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s European operations as it probes potential money laundering, according to Reuters.

Authorities are reportedly looking at the bank’s ties with several Chinese clients. Shares of the bank listed on the mainland were off 0.85 percent while Hong Kong-listed shares were off 0.17 percent.

Over in Japan, the government announced Monday that it would sell $12 billion of Japan Post Holdings stock. Market reaction to the sale, however, was lukewarm as the company’s potential for growth wasn’t attractive, Reuters quoted fund managers as saying. The postal company’s shares jumped 4.01 percent at 12:23 p.m. HK/SIN.

Source: CNBC