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Asia mixed in quiet trading session, with Nikkei up 1.9%

Asia markets mixed in early trade

Asia markets were mixed in a quiet session on Tuesday, with a weaker yen buoying Japanese stocks while Chinese stocks gave their Monday gains but held onto the psychologically key 3,000 level.

Japan's , which reopened after a public holiday Monday, closed up 323.74 points, or 1.94 percent, at 17,048.55. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi finished up 7.05 points, or 0.35 percent, at 1,996.81. Hong Kong's gave up morning gains to close near flat at 20,666.75.

Chinese markets, which were up Monday after authorities signaled the loosening of controls over margin lending, retreated, with the closing down 18.13 points, or 0.60 percent, at 3,000.67. The Shenzhen composite fell 5.58 points, or 0.29 percent, at 1,880.78.

Down Under, the ASX 200 index gave up early gains to close flat at 5,166.60, weighed by the financials and materials sub-indexes, down 0.46 and 0.58 percent, respectively.

Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia at Bank Julius Baer, wrote in a morning note that ahead of the Good Friday holiday, markets were very quiet but stable. "There is no real reason for them to sell off, apart from their being high," said Matthews.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

But economists at Deutsche Bank said in their Asia Economics Monthly note that despite the recovery in global risk sentiment, accompanied by stability in the currency market and a rally in asset prices, Asia's economic outlook remained a cause for concern.

"Asia's underlying economic data have worsened progressively. Exports, which declined across the board in the region last year, have started 2016 even weaker, both in value and volume terms," the economists said, adding "industrial production data and PMI survey readings have also been poor. Weak demand from China is a key contributor to this phenomenon, but another important element is chronic weakness in demand from EU."

On the currency front, the Japanese yen advanced to the 111 handle against the dollar, after market close, with the dollar/yen pair trading down 0.21 percent at 111.70, as of 4:00 p.m. HK/SIN time. Earlier, the pair hit a session high of 112.20, lifting shares.

Major Japanese exporters received a boost Tuesday, with Toyota adding 3.57 percent, Nissan up 1.98 percent and Honda adding 1.24 percent. A weaker yen is usually a positive for exporters as it improves their overseas profit numbers when converted to local currency.

The Australian dollar climbed up to the $0.76 level against the greenback after market close, before retreating slightly as the pair traded up 0.24 percent 0.7594 at 4:00 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, said in an afternoon note that the low levels of implied volatility in equity markets have benefited the Aussie dollar, with "the rise in iron ore, steel and energy [have] ... also been a key tailwind [for the currency]."

Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor Glenn Stevens said earlier Tuesday that the recent rise of the Aussie was risky, Reuters reported. Commodity prices would need to recover strongly and the U.S. Federal Reserve would have to keep interest rates at current levels to justify the higher Aussie dollar, the central banker said, according to Reuters.

Pedestrians walk past a share prices board displaying movements on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo.
Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

In corporate news, Japan's Jiji News reported Monday that Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn would likely reduce its capital injection into troubled electronics maker Sharp by around 100 billion yen ($898 million), compared to its initial plan of injecting 489 billion yen, according to Reuters. Shares of Sharp closed down 6.52 percent.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei reported that airbag manufacturer Takata planned to sell Irvin Automotive Products, an American company that produces automotive interior materials, for tens of billions of yen to fund the recall of its defective air bags. Takata shares ended up 0.38 percent.

Mining stocks were mixed, with major miners in Australia, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, finishing down 0.54 and 1.49 percent respectively. But iron ore producer Fortescue closed up 0.36 percent, following an overnight uptick in iron ore prices to $58 a tonne, from $56.30 on Friday.

Chinese metal plays were mostly lower, with shares of Baoshan Steel closing down 2.02 percent, Shandong Jinling Mining down 4.45 percent and Yunnan Copper lower by 2.80 percent. Metal prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) were mostly lower, with three-month copper trading down 0.37 percent while three-month aluminum fell 0.43 percent as of 4:00 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Oil prices advanced overnight, with Reuters reporting that data showed crude inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. futures fell for the first time since January. U.S. crude futures for April delivery added 1.2 percent to $39.91 a barrel, before expiring as the front-month contract.

During Asian hours, U.S. crude futures for May delivery, which became the front-month contract, shed 0.17 percent to $41.46 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent futures were lower by 0.19 percent at $41.46 in late afternoon HK/SIN time, after settling up 0.8 percent overnight.

Energy plays finished mixed, with Santos closing up 0.25 percent, Woodside Petroleum higher by 0.77 percent, Japan's Inpex closing down 0.92 percent and South Korea's S-Oil fell 0.33 percent. Mainland Chinese energy plays were mixed, with Sinopec adding 2.67 percent.

Major U.S. indexes advanced overnight, with the adding 0.12 percent, S&P 500 higher by 0.1 percent and gaining 0.28 percent.

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