Asia markets higher, Trump’s NKorea comments weigh

Asian shares were higher on Monday, with Chinese markets closed for holiday, on the first trading day of the new quarter, as traders eye news ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump told the Financial Times Sunday that the U.S. will take unilateral action to eliminate nuclear threats from North Korea, unless China, one of the hermit state's closest ally, intensifies pressure on Pyongyang.

China's Xi is set to meet with Trump on Thursday and Friday at the latter's Florida Mar-a-Lago golf resort.

Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.39 percent or 74 points at 18,983.23. The Bank of Japan's Tankan quarterly survey showed that large Japanese manufacturers' sentiment was up +12, lower compared to a Reuters poll forecast for +14. Japan's service sector saw sentiment improve, up +20.

"For the manufacturing sector, exports are growing especially to the U.S., China and Asia, but I guess people are a bit concerned about what's happening in the U.S.," said Sayuri Shirai, professor at Keio University.

Toshiba shares plunged 5.47 percent on Monday after Reuters reported that the Japanese conglomerate might miss a third deadline to report its quarterly business results.

Across the Korean strait, the Kospi added 0.34 percent or 7.3 points to close at 2,167.51.

South Korea's first digital bank, K Bank, launched on Monday and will allow customers to open a bank account or apply for a loan on customer's smartphones.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.5 percent by mid-afternoon.

Huishan Dairy shares were suspended on Monday, after its chairman and controlling shareholder sold his shares during the company's plunge last Friday which wiped off more than $4 billion off the market capitalization.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 struggled for most of the session but finished up 0.13 percent or 7.8 points at 5,872.7. Earlier, data showed that February retail sales fell 0.1 percent from January, while approvals to build new homes in February jumped 8.3 percent, beating expectations of a 1 percent drop.

Australian coal haulage group Aurizon Holdings said that damage from Cyclone Debbie in Queensland could mean some rail lines used by miners, including BHP Billiton, could be closed for repairs for more than a month. Shares of Aurizon Holdings were down 1.14 percent, and BHP Billiton slipped 0.17 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

Over in stateside markets, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.31 percent to close at 20,663.22, the S&P 500 finished down 0.23 percent to 2,362.72 and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.04 percent to finish at 5,911.74.

The dollar index was trading steady at 100.49 against a basket of currencies. Against the greenback, the yen was at 111.49, down from levels as high as 112.19 seen last Friday, and the Australian dollar slipped to $0.76 from $0.7633 earlier before the data.

In energy news, Iraq assured the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that it will fully comply with an agreement to cut supply, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said on Sunday in Baghdad.

But oil prices slipped on Monday on concerns of increasing shale output in the U.S. which could weigh on the global oversupply.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 0.24 percent at $53.40 a barrel during Asian trade, and U.S. crude slipped 0.16 percent to $50.52.

Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese markets were shut for public holidays.