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Asian equities close mostly higher; Nikkei hits 20,000

STR | AFP | Getty Images

Asian markets closed mostly in positive territory, with the Nikkei breaking the 20,000 benchmark for the first time in three months, as investors were unfazed by a lower finish on Wall Street overnight.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Monday, weighed by retail results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 79 points, or 0.44 percent, at 17,720; the S&P 500 was 10 points, or 0.46 percent, lower at 2,080; and the Nasdaq fell 19 points, or 0.37 percent, to 5,109.

November saw overall gains in U.S. equity markets despite incidents such as the terror attacks in Paris, the shooting down of a Russian warplane, and the worst week for China's Shanghai Composite since August - all of which contributed to global markets volatility.

The S&P 500 eked out a 0.05 percent gain for November, while the Nasdaq gained more than 1 percent for the month. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the month up 0.3 percent.

Investors are focused on two crucial data due later in the week, before the Federal Open Market Committee meets in mid-December. On Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce its monetary policy decision, then on Friday in the U.S. November non-farm payrolls are out.

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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Chinese markets close mixed as PMI disappoint

Chinese markets closed mixed as investors digested official Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) numbers that missed Reuters' forecasts.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported that China's manufacturing PMI, a measure of activities in the factory sector, declined marginally, from 49.8 in October to 49.6 in November. The services sector PMI had a reading of 53.6 in November, 0.5 point higher than the previous month, reflecting the country's gradual shift to a more services-led economy.

The private Caixin manufacturing PMI number, released 45 minutes after the official survey results, was up slightly at 48.6 for November. The Caixin survey is a closely-watched gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity focuses on smaller and medium-sized companies, which aren't covered by the official data. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity.

The Shanghai Composite pared its losses to close 12 points, or 0.36 percent, higher at 3,457. The smaller Shenzhen Composite closed in the red, as did the tech-heavy Chinext. The blue-chip heavy CSI 300 Index closed 0.71 percent higher after a late surge in afternoon trading.

Chinese brokerages ended the session mixed as the China Securities Regulatory Commission's (CSRC) investigation of short selling and speculation by brokerage firms continued.

Banking stocks were also down, with major banks recording losses of between 0.6 and 2.19 percent. The yuan was flat against the dollar at 6.398.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's largest lender by assets, raised $300 million from a U.S. dollar-denominated bond offering via its Sydney branch. ICBC's shares were down 1.5 percent during afternoon trade.

Overnight, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) officially admitted the yuan into its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, effective from October 1, 2016, affording it a reserve currency status alongside the dollar, euro, pound sterling and yen. The yuan will make up 10.92 percent of the basket.

The IMF's managing director Christine Lagarde said in a press release that the decision to include the yuan was "a recognition of the progress that the Chinese authorities have made in the past years in reforming China's monetary and financial systems."

Elsewhere, Chinese metal stocks pared losses from the morning session after the drop in China's manufacturing PMI sent metal prices down, and ended trading higher.

Nikkei breaks the 20,000 benchmark

The Nikkei 225 surged past the 20,000 mark for the first time since August, up 265 points or 1.34 percent, to 20,012 as Japan's economy showed signs it was on the verge of a rebound.

Data from the Ministry of Finance released on Tuesday showed that Japanese companies raised their spending on equipment and factories by 11.2 percent year-on-year between July and September, indicating some positive sentiment.

Then in the afternoon, Reuters reported that Japan's annual tax revenue was expected to exceed 56 trillion yen ($456 billion) in the current fiscal year, to hit the highest level in 24 years.

Nissan shares fell 1.94 percent after news broke that the company was planning to up its stake in Renault to at least 25 percent, from the current 15 percent. The biggest shareholder in Renault is the French government. Nissan said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that no concrete decision on the move had been made at Monday's board meeting.

Japanese blue chips traded higher, with shares of Toyota, Sony, Canon, and Mitsubishi Electric up between 1 and 2.86 percent at close.

Kospi sees 1.6 percent gain

Seoul's Kospi closed 32 points, or 1.6 percent, higher at 2,024 despite official data released in the morning from the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Energy that showed South Korean exports contracted for 11th consecutive month in November.

Exports dropped by 4.7 percent on-year to $44.43 billion as sluggish global demand continued to weigh, but the lower number still beat expectations. Economists polled by Reuters had expected South Korea's November exports to slump by 8.3 percent on-year.

Imports, on the other hand, fell drastically, down 17.6 percent on-year to total $34.07 billion for November.

Shares on the Kospi appeared relatively unaffected throughout the trading day. Blue-chip and tech stocks traded mostly higher.

Shares of consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronic closer 2.88 percent up after the company announced that Dongjin Koh would be the new president of its smartphone business. Koh will take over from the incumbent J.K. Shin, who, Samsung says, will stay on as the head of the overall mobile division, according to reports.

ASX closes 1.8 percent higher

The ASX 200 maintained gains throughout the trading day and closed 92 points, or 1.78 percent, higher at 5,258.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept interest rates unchanged at 2 percent after its meeting on Tuesday. The central bank said the Australian economy was expanding at a moderate pace despite a slump in commodity prices, and that the Aussie dollar was adjusting.

Paul Bloxham, chief economist for Australia and New Zealand at HSBC, told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" the statement from the RBA looked very similar to what it had said in November.

"The bit they've added, it looks as though, is about credit growth," he said. "The fact that business credit growth is picking up."

Bloxham said credit growth was a new positive because it meant that businesses were sufficiently confident in the outlook to start borrowing, he said.

Banks shares saw a sharp uptick during afternoon trade as RBA's positive assessment of the economy increased expectations of a rise in lending in the future. Shares of ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac, and NAB closed between 1.5 and 2.3 percent higher.

Resources producers traded mixed on the back of slumping commodities prices.

Juniors Mount Gibson, BC Iron, and Atlas Iron continued to fall on the back of falling iron ore prices. Shares in Mount Gibson closed 1.32 percent down, BC Iron 4.17 percent lower, and Atlas Iron down 2.38 percent after the miner trimmed early losses that put its stock as much as 7 percent lower.

Australia's three big miners, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Fortescue, closed in positive territory. BHP Billiton shares were up 3.59 percent despite a pending lawsuit.

Brazil's government filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday morning during Asian trading hours against BHP, Vale, and their joint company Samarco Minerals, seeking 20.2 billion reais ($5.2 billion) in damages, following a massive dam failure at a Samarco iron ore mine last month.

Oil producers traded mixed, with shares of Woodside Petroleum gaining more than 2 percent. In Asian trade, U.S. crude oil was up 29 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $41.94 a barrel while the internationally traded Brent saw a 16 cent, or 0.36 percent, rise to $44.77 a barrel.

The Australian dollar traded higher against the U.S. dollar, fetching $0.7264.