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Asia markets mixed amid Nikkei drop; dollar slips as traders await Yellen's speech

Asia markets open mixed

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday, with the Japanese market ending lower as stocks came under pressure due to a weaker dollar buoying the yen.

The closed down by 100.83 points, or 0.61 percent, at 16,497.36, while the Topix index fell 6.12 points, or 0.47 percent, to 1,297.56.

The Japanese yen saw renewed strength in the afternoon session against the dollar, going high as 99.97 before retreating slightly to 100.08 as of 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN. This was compared with levels near 100.76 on Monday afternoon local time.

Japanese export stocks traded mostly lower throughout the session, likely tracking the yen's movement. Shares of Toyota closed down 1.69 percent, Nissan was down 1.47 percent and Honda declined by 2.08 percent. A stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted back into local currency.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 7.77 points, or 0.38 percent, at 2,049.93. Australian shares also advanced, with the benchmark ASX 200 closing up 38.74 points, or 0.7 percent, at 5,553.80, as the heavily-weighted financials sector added 0.88 percent. New Zealand's NZX 50 closed nearly flat at 7,467.33.

In Hong Kong, the was down 0.17 percent in late-afternoon trading. Chinese mainland markets closed modestly higher, with the composite up 5.82 points, or 0.19 percent, at 3,090.63, while the Shenzhen composite added 5.39 points, or 0.26 percent, to 2,024.05.

Major indexes in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines also traded lower in the afternoon session.

Analysts pointed out that markets were likely in a wait-and-see mode ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen on Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's Monetary Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The annual Fed symposium has sometimes been used by Fed chairs to make important policy pronouncements.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

"We are now all, or the vast majority, looking ahead to Yellen at Jackson Hole on Friday, to somehow magically wade through the differing opinions and tell us what really is going to happen. That is probably far too much to expect," Patrick Bennett, a foreign-exchange strategist at CIBC, said in a note Tuesday.

"It is difficult to envisage Yellen being overly dovish, as to do so suggests forecasts have been wrong and they should have acted on those before now. A hawkish tilt will not surprise, but whether that is eventually acted upon will as ever down to how economic data plays out," he said.

In the currency market, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, pulled back from levels near 94.905 on Monday afternoon Asia time to 94.398 Tuesday afternoon.

Bennett said in a phone interview that the dollar's weakness was driven by traders becoming nervous as they positioned ahead of the Jackson Hole symposium. Asian currencies also rose against the dollar in late afternoon trade on Tuesday, with Bennett saying they were likely tracking the yen's strength.

In other central bank news, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand said on Tuesday its current interest rate track involves further rate cuts, possibly by another 35 basis points, to balance a number of risks weighing on the New Zealand economy, while propping up inflation closer to the midpoint of its 1 to 3 percent target range.

The remarks were part of a speech written by RBNZ Governor Graeme Wheeler, addressing business people in Dunedin. Earlier this month, the central bank cut its official cash rate by 25 basis points to 2 percent.

But in his speech, Wheeler noted that an aggressive monetary policy, including rapid rate cuts, could spur an unsustainable surge in growth and further inflame an already seriously overheating property market.

After the speech, the strengthened against the greenback, trading up at $0.7338 on Tuesday afternoon, compared with earlier lows of $0.7257.

Some analysts found the Kiwi's upward move puzzling.

"I was a little bit puzzled by the way the Kiwi reacted," Sally Auld, a fixed income and foreign exchange strategist at JPMorgan, told CNBC's "Street Signs." She added Wheeler did not say anything new, but noted that the headlines printed on the back of the speech were likely interpreted by market participants as "being more hawkish than expected."

That contrasted with Goldman Sachs analysts saying in a note on Tuesday that Wheeler's comments were consistent with Goldman's forecast of a gradual reduction in the official cash rate to 1.50 percent by February 2017.

Elsewhere in the currency market, the Indian rupee traded at 67.06 against the dollar, after weakening from levels near 66.80 late last week when India appointed Urjit Patel to take over the helm as governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from his predecessor Raghuram Rajan. Patel was previously a deputy governor at the RBI.

Analysts expected to see further rebound in the dollar/rupee pair, in tandem with movements of the dollar against other Asian currencies.

ANZ Research's Irene Cheung and Rini Sen said in a note that "a firmer dollar on the back of an expected hike by the Federal Reserve this year, coupled with some unwinding of RBI rate cut expectations in India's asset markets, will likely see a rebound in dollar/rupee."

Hiroshi Watanabe | Getty Images

The rally in oil prices snapped overnight, with prices closing down more than 3 percent on further signs of oversupply in the global energy market.

Reuters reported China's July diesel and gasoline exports soared 181.8 percent and 145.2 percent, respectively, on-year, which put pressure on refined product margins. In the U.S., drillers added 10 oil rigs in the week to August 19, marking eight straight weeks of rig additions, while Iraq said it plans to increase its exports of crude oil, said Reuters.

During Asian hours, oil prices retreated further, with the new October forward-month contract for U.S. crude futures down 0.89 percent to $46.99, after falling 3.6 percent overnight. Global benchmark Brent futures dropped 0.61 percent to $48.86 a barrel, following a 3.4 percent decline on Monday.

Over the past two weeks, oil prices rallied amid speculation that the world's leading suppliers might take some form of action to address low prices and also due to a relatively weaker dollar. However, analysts have previously said the chances of suppliers, particularly members of OPEC, agreeing on a deal were limited.

Goldman said it was sticking to its forecast of $45-$50 per barrel for Brent through next summer.

In company news, shares of Japanese semiconductor maker Renesas Electronics dropped 5.55 percent on Tuesday, following a Reuters report, citing sources familiar with the matter, that said the company was nearing an expected $3 billion acquisition of U.S. chipmaker Intersil.

Australian energy company Oil Search announced its net profit after tax for the first half plunged 89 percent to $25.6 million, from $227.5 million in the year-earlier period, as it was hit by the prolonged slump in global oil and liquefied natural gas prices. Total revenue declined 33 percent on-year to $580.8 million in first half of 2016.

Oil Search shares fell 0.81 percent. Other energy plays across the region were mostly lower amid falling oil prices, with Woodside Petroleum off 0.41 percent and Inpex losing 2.23 percent.

One of Australia's largest retail landlords, Scentre Group, also reported its profit after tax for the January-to-June period was up 6.6 percent on-year at A$1.154 billion, while revenue fell 5.2 percent to 1.28 billion Australian dollars ($974.10 million).

Shares of Scentre, which owns and operates interests in Westfield shopping centers in Australia and New Zealand, closed down 0.2 percent.

In the U.S., the closed 23.15 points, or 0.12 percent, lower at 18,529.42. The S&P 500 index slipped 1.23 points, or 0.06 percent, to end at 2,182.64, while the gained 6.22 points, or 0.12 percent, to 5,244.60.

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