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Asia markets mixed as some investors expect the 'Trump trade' to continue

Hiroshi Watanabe | Getty Images

Asia markets traded mixed on Tuesday, as some traders expected continued support from the optimism around President Donald Trump's economic policies, which sent global stocks higher in recent weeks.

Jonathan Pain, author of the Pain Report, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" markets were being driven by "animal spirits." (That term was used by economist John Maynard Keynes to describe how human emotion drives consumer confidence.)

"I still feel we're in that kind of first derivative, reflexive euphoria," Pain said, but he acknowledged investors are trying to grapple with the lack of details on Trump's proposed policies, such as tax reform, and also his protectionist rhetoric.

In South Korea, the Kospi index closed up 18.54 points, or 0.89 percent, to 2,102.93, after customs data showed a jump in exports in the first 20 days of February.

Exports climbed 26.2 percent on-year in dollar terms, while imports increased 26 percent, and the country posted a trade surplus of $2.19 billion, Reuters reported.

Samsung Electronics shares advanced 0.72 percent, despite the arrest of group chief Jay Y. Lee on Friday for his alleged role in a corruption scandal. Lee was questioned by authorities over the weekend, and reports suggest he will likely be indicted by next week.

Ratings agencies S&P Global Ratings, Moody's and Fitch Ratings all said the arrest was unlikely to affect the credit rating of the flagship Samsung Electronics brand.

Shares of Kakao, which is known for its messaging platform Kakao Talk, rose 4.25 percent to 88,400 Korean won after Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial said it will invest $200 million into Kakao's mobile payments subsidiary.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 130.36 points, or 0.68 percent, to 19,381.44, as exporters saw fractional gains on the back of a relatively weaker yen.

The yen traded at 113.46 to the dollar, weakening from levels near 113.06 earlier. A weaker yen is usually a positive for exporters as it increases their overseas earnings when converted back to local currency.

Toyota shares rose 0.72 percent, Sony shares were up 0.37 percent and Honda rose 0.62 percent.

Toshiba shares fell 1.40 percent, following reports that the troubled conglomerate wants to raise at least 1 trillion yen ($8.83 billion) from the sale of a majority stake in its flash memory business. The company previously reported a $6.3 billion writedown of its U.S. nuclear unit.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.64 percent in afternoon trade. Chinese mainland markets finished higher, with the Shanghai composite up 13.28 points, or 0.41 percent, at 3,253.24, and the Shenzhen composite added 18.61 points, or 0.94 percent, to 1,981.14.

HSBC announced its 2016 pre-tax profit fell 62 percent to $7.1 billion, as the bank grappled with slowing economic growth in its core markets in Hong Kong and Britain and took one-time charges related to some of its businesses.

Hong Kong-listed HSBC shares fell 4.13 percent in the aftermath, while rival Standard Chartered slipped 1.49 percent.

Down Under, the benchmark ASX 200 bucked the upward trend to close down 4.06 points, or 0.07 percent, at 5,791.02.

The session in Asia came after markets in the U.S. were closed on Monday for a public holiday.

"With U.S. markets closed for Presidents' Day, it was perhaps apt that President Trump gave markets some reprieve from the combined (but confused) effects of 'Trumpflation' and 'Donald Doubt'," analysts at Mizuho Bank said in a note.

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 the currency market, the dollar index rose moderately to 101.20 at 1:10 p.m. HK/SIN, up from an earlier low of 100.91.

Analysts at Singapore's DBS Bank said for the dollar to strengthen, the dollar index needs "the buy-in from the interest rate markets."

The DBS analysts pointed out the dollar is also struggling against the Trump administration's complaints accusing China, Japan and Germany of keeping their currencies undervalued.

Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA, said that despite the narrow trading ranges in the dollar frustrating traders, there were still enough moving parts to keep things interesting in the currency market.

"European risks (are) smoldering and Fed minutes (are) on tap as Fed watch is creeping back into the headlines," he said.

The Australian dollar slipped slightly against the greenback, trading at $0.7666, down from its previous close at $0.7686. Meanwhile, the euro traded at $1.0581.

Oil prices were mixed Tuesday afternoon, with global benchmark Brent down 0.11 percent to $56.12, while U.S. crude futures added 0.51 percent to $53.67.

Reuters reported top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia's crude oil shipments fell in December to 8.014 million barrels per day (bpd) from 8.258 million bpd in November.