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Asia markets mixed, Kospi jumps 1%

Asian equities finished mixed on Tuesday, after the Reserve Bank of Australia released its March meeting minutes and the dollar remained soft.

The ASX 200 slipped 0.07 percent or 4.3 points to close at 5,774.6, dragged by its materials sub-index, which was down 0.58 percent. The RBA's March meeting minutes revealed that the central bank saw growing risks in the overheating housing market.

"This reinforces the idea that the prospect of another rate cut anytime soon is remote, and paves the way for a tightening of macro-prudential measures quite imminently," said Nizam Idris, Gareth Berry and Teresa Lam, strategists at Macquarie Bank, in a Tuesday note.

They added that the RBA "is perfectly justified in sounding the alarm at this point" with household debt in Australia and Canada among the highest in the world.

Engineering and construction firm Downer EDI is looking to launch a A$1.27 billion ($981 million) takeover bid for cleaning and catering company Spotless Group at A$1.15 per share. Downer EDI shares were untraded at A$7.42 per share, and Spotless Group rallied 49 percent to A$1.08.

The Japanese benchmark closed down 0.34 percent or 65.7 points at 19,455.88 as the yen remained below the 113 handle seen last week. The yen last traded at 112.74 against the dollar.

"Although dollar/yen traded heavy early in the session, resilient risk appetite has underpinned today's movements. The near-term outlook comes down to how aggressive the continuation of dollar unwinds transpires," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA.

Toshiba's U.S. Westinghouse Electric is taking offers for a financing package to help it go through U.S. bankruptcy, Reuters reported. Shares of Toshiba climbed 3.21 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi jumped 0.99 percent or 21.4 points to 2,178.38.

Former President Park Geun-hye apologized to the country on Tuesday as she arrived at prosecutors offices for further questioning as a criminal suspect in a corruption probe.

Chinese shares closed up positive. The Shanghai composite added 0.35 percent or 11.4 points at 3,262.2 and Shenzhen composite finished up 0.39 percent or 7.89 points at 2,043.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.44 percent by 3 pm HK/SIN.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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U.S. equities closed mixed on Monday, as investors turned their focus on Federal Reserve officials. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.04 percent to close at 20,905.86, S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent to 2,373.47 and the Nasdaq composite was up just 0.01 percent to 5,901.53.

The U.S. central bank raised interest rates by 25 basis points last week for the first time this year, but the "dot plot" that shows each member's expectations for where rates will be in coming years changed little from the last meeting.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the central bank will likely wait until June to decide on the next rate hike.

Ahead on Tuesday, Fed officials will be speaking from around the world.

They include New York Fed President William Dudley, who speaks at 6:35 a.m. in London, while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren speaks in Bali, Indonesia. Kansas City Fed President Esther George speaks on the economy at noon and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester speaks at 6 p.m. ET on the outlook and communications.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was weaker at 100.29.

The softer dollar was the result of "remnants from last week's 'dovish hike' by the Fed rather than an existing conviction trade," said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank, in a daily note.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger article 50 on March 29, her spokesperson said on Monday. This will begin the two-year countdown of negotiations leading to Britain leaving the European Union.

During Asian trade on Tuesday, the pound was steady and fetched $1.2376 by 3:03 pm HK/SIN.

"The announcement to trigger article 50 was never likely to be the straw that broke the camel's back for Sterling, as the milestone has had nine months of airtime," said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a Tuesday note.

"The performance of sterling now comes down to the perception of how well the U.K. government are doing in the process."

On the energy front, oil prices slipped as traders worry about growing U.S. crude stockpiles and output. Later Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute releases weekly estimates of U.S. refined product and crude oil stocks. The figures are followed by official data on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

During Asian trade, Brent crude was up 0.48 percent to $51.87 a barrel, while U.S. crude added 0.29 percent to $48.36.

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