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Asia markets mixed as investors await key speech from President Trump

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Asia markets finished mixed on Tuesday, despite U.S. gains, as investors await a key speech from President Donald Trump.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed nearly flat at 19,118.99, retracing gains seen in early trade, while the Topix index added 1.32 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,535.32.

Some exporters gave up early gains on the back of a stronger yen, which rose as high as 112.29 to the dollar earlier in the session. At 3:18 p.m. HK/SIN, the dollar/yen pair traded at 112.44.

Toyota shares finished down 0.64 percent, Nissan traded up 0.09 percent and Honda fell 0.26 percent, while Sony added 0.69 percent.

Takata shares fell 0.18 percent, after the troubled air bag maker formally pleaded guilty to fraud Monday and agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty for concealing a deadly defect in millions of its air bags.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 6.12 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,091.64. Samsung Group shares finished mostly higher despite news that South Korea's special prospector's office said it will indict Jay Y. Lee for his alleged role in a corruption scandal.

Samsung Electronics closed up 1 percent, Samsung SDI was higher by 1.6 percent and Samsung Engineering advanced 2.1 percent. Shares of Samsung C&T, however, fell 1.6 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was down 0.74 percent in afternoon-trade. Chinese mainland markets ended in positive territory, with the Shanghai composite up 13.99 points, or 0.43 percent, at 3,242.65, and the Shenzhen composite adding 12.54 points, or 0.63 percent, to 2,001.32.

Australia's ASX 200 fell 11.96 points, or 0.21 percent, to 5,712.22, with most sectors finishing down. The energy sector gained 0.9 percent on the back of steady oil prices.

U.S. crude traded nearly flat, up 0.04 percent at $54.07 at 3:23 p.m. HK/SIN, while global benchmark Brent gained 0.07 percent to $55.97.

Trump is set to speak at a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, with investors hoping for more details on the administration's plans for tax reform and deregulation.

"It's frankly very difficult to know what markets expect from the joint session address, but expectations of an address with some reassuring and guiding details of the fiscal stance, from tax policies, and infrastructure might have been an ambitious hope," said David de Garis, a director at the National Australia Bank.

Some market commentators said Trump preempted his speech to Congress by announcing part of his plans.

White House budget officials told reporters Monday that Trump's first budget will call for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and a corresponding cut in what his administration deems lower priority programs.

"Investors were initially disappointed by the delay of the tax plan, but looked past that by the end of the day," said Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management. She added the dollar continued to struggle and traded lower or held steady against most of the major currencies.

The dollar index traded fractionally lower at 101.08 at 3:29 p.m. HK/SIN on Tuesday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7678, while the euro fetched $1.0596 and the British pound traded at $1.2427.

On the data front, India is set to release its October-December quarter GDP figures later in the day, which could see the country lose its title as the world's fastest expanding major economy. Economists expect a sizable drop in growth for the quarter due to a demonetization-led cash crunch that hit the cash-heavy economy.

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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