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Asian markets mixed; Dollar index hovers at 100 handle

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Asian stocks were mixed on Tuesday as the dollar remained soft amid uncertainty over U.S. President Donald Trump's policies and his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Withdrawing from the TPP agreement was a promise Trump made in his presidential campaign, saying it would protect American workers. The 12-nation trade deal was negotiated by former President Barack Obama's administration as a key pillar in his pivot to Asia.

Meanwhile, Trump also told business leaders on Monday thathis administration could cut regulations by 75 percent or "maybe more" although further details were not given.

"Investors are nervous due to Trump's protectionism policies and their hope is that his tax cut policies could perhaps save the day for them," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a note on Tuesday.

The greenback fell against a basket of currencies, dipping below 100 intraday, a low not seen since mid-November, and inching up to 100.21 in afternoon trade in Asia.

"Unwinding free trade agreements and imposing border taxes is seen by markets as a negative for the dollar," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note on Tuesday.

Media reports also cited U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin's comments that the "excessively strong dollar may have negative short-term implications on the economy" as a reason for the dollar's drop.

But analysts noted that the comments needed context as media reports said the remarks were from a written response to a senator's question about a hypothetical scenario of a 25 percent rise in the dollar.

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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In South Korea, the Kospi closed unchanged at 2,065.76 after a choppy session.

Samsung Electronics was up 0.26 percent to 1,908,000 won each shareafter it reported fourth-quarter operating profit rose 50 percent to 9.22 trillion won ($7.93 billion), in line with guidance, as record earnings in its semiconductor business outweighed the negative impact of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 models.

Samsung's revenue remained flat at 53.3 trillion won from the previous year, and it also announced a share buyback plan worth 9.3 trillion won this year.

LG Display fell 2.31 percent to 31,750 won a share, after it announced plans to sell its entire stake in LG Siltron for 620 billion won ($533.5 million). The LCD panel maker also announced early Tuesday that its 2016 operating profit fell 19 percent from a year earlier at 1.3 trillion won ($1.12 billion).

Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.55 percent or 103 points at 18,787.99, extending the previous session's declines of more than 1 percent.

Takata shares tumbled 6 percent to 439 yen each, recovering from earlier losses of more than 13 percent, on worries of court involvement in its Japanese business plans. Since last Wednesday's close, Takata shares have lost 49 percent.

The embattled airbag maker is in the process of selecting a financial backer as it faces heavy costs to replace approximately 100 million potentially defective airbag inflators that have been linked to several deaths globally.

Potential bidders for Takata favor a court-led turnaround of its Japanese operations, which is a strategy the company opposes, Reuters reported.

In mainland China, the Shanghai composite closed up 0.2 perecnt or 6.31 points at 3,143.09 while the Shenzhen composite ended down 0.30 percent or 5.69 points at 1,896.45. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.28 percent by the afternoon.

Down Under, the ASX 200 ended up 0.72 percent or 40.63 points at 5,651.6, buoyed by strength in its materials sub-index, up 2.65 percent. Base metal prices had jumped overnight in the U.S. as the dollar weakened and on hopes that the Trump administration would boost infrastructure spending, Reuters reported.

Major miners were all in the green, with Rio Tinto gaining 3.62 percent to A$64.76, Fortescue Metals up 5.4 percent at A$6.54, and BHP Billiton adding 2.5 percent to A$27.01.

Malaysia-based AirAsia shares were up 0.82 percent at 2.46 Malaysian ringgit per share, after falling more than 5 percent during Monday's session. The low-cost carrier denied wrongdoing related to a corruption scandal at Rolls-Royce over bribery allegations first reported by the Financial Times.

In the broader currency market, the dollar also weakened against the yen, fetching 112.86, as the Australian dollar gained against the greenback at $0.7574.

The pound/dollar pair was higher at $1.2505, compared to levels as low as 1.2256 last week, ahead of the U.K. Supreme Court's decision on whether Prime Minister Theresa May can use her executive powers to invoke Article 50 and begin the Brexit process.

During Asian trade, U.S. crude futures were up 0.47 percent at $53.00 a barrel, while Brent crude was up 0.51 percent at $55.51.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.14 percent to close at 19,799.85, while the S&P 500 fell 0.27 percent at 2,265.2 and the Nasdaq closed down 0.04 percent at 5,552.94.

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