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Asian stocks traded mixed on Tuesday, overlooking a strong session on Wall Street, as fears of a further slump in oil prices resurfaced. Trading volumes were low ahead of Thursday's Christmas holiday and as Japanese markets shut for the Emperor's Birthday holiday.
Brent crude oil prices edged up on Tuesday following a volatile session the day before that saw contracts jump over 2 percentage points, before falling back to not much more than $60 a barrel. U.S. WTI crude was up 56 cents at $55.82 a barrel.
Wall St clinches record finish
U.S. stocks advanced overnight, with technology leading the Dow and S&P 500 to record finishes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.9 percent, rising for a fourth session to end at a record high, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.3 percent.
Mainland indices mixed
China's Shanghai Composite index closed 3 percent lower amid choppy trade on Tuesday.
"The index has been very profitable [but] it's now consolidating so that's why it is coming back to 3,000-3,300... but we are looking for a continuation through to about 3,600 moving forward," Daryl Guppy, CEO of Guppytraders.com told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia. "
Elsewhere, traders were focused on news that Beijing is investigating possible stock-price manipulation. The securities agency said Friday that it had launched investigations into 18 stocks, sparking a sharp dive in small cap indexes in Shenzhen on Monday.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index widened losses to 0.5 percent in the afternoon session.
The highlight of the day was Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, which fell 7.8 percent to HK$44.25 in its inaugural day of trading. Shares of the Chinese real estate developer, owned by billionaire Wang Jianlin, was priced at HK$48.00 and raised $3.7 billion last week, making it Hong Kong's biggest initial public offering since 2010.
Sun Hung Kai Properties held on to a nearly 1 percent gain after its former chairman Thomas Kwok was sentenced to 5 years in jail for corruption. Some analysts are bullish on the stock: "After all these months, the stock is trading nearly 30 percent below its asset value - it is very cheap now," Dickie Wong, executive director at Kingston Securities, told CNBC.
ASX loses 1.1%
Australian equities broke a four-day rally on Tuesday, as the benchmark S&P ASX 200 index retreated from a five-week high of 5,442 points on profit taking and after a slide in commodity prices overnight hurt sentiment.
Miners led declines; BC Iron and Fortescue Metals settling 9.5 and 5.2 percent lower each. Energy producers also put up a dismal showing, with Oil Search closed down 2.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost 1.9 and 1.3 percent, respectively.
Gold firms Alacer Gold and Evolution Mining closed down 8.5 and 5.2 percent each.
Telstra is in focus after it said it would buy Pacnet for $697 million. Shares of Australia's largest telecom services provider were 0.7 percent weaker on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar dropped 0.3 percent to trade at $0.8112 against the greenback, near multi-year lows. "AUD/USD is on the verge of breaking below the 0.8100 handle and judging by the recent price action, this move may not be far off," said IG market strategist Stan Shamu.
Kospi drops 0.2%
South Korea's Kospi index saw relatively muted trade on Tuesday, while the junior Kosdaq index pared gains to slip 0.4 percent in the afternoon session.
Energy plays threw away Monday's gains, with S-Oil receding 3.1 percent and the country's largest refiner SK Innovation ending flat. Korea Gas trimmed gains to 0.3 percent as the government considers a cut in electricity rates due to falling oil prices.
Steelmaker Posco, which announced that it has completed its lithium production plant in Argentina, finished 1 percent lower on late Tuesday.