×

Asian equities mostly positive, ASX up 0.3%, Nikkei adds 0.3%, Kospi flat

Asian shares were mostly positive on Wednesday, after brushing off a North Korean ballistic missile test ahead of an upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The U.S. military and South Korea's Yonhap reported that North Korea launched a medium-range ballistic missile from a land-based facility, ahead of a summit between U.S. and Chinese leaders on Thursday and Friday. Following the missile test, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cautioned that North Korea could take further action.

But one strategist told CNBC that North Korea's latest missile test is not any different from previous acts of defiance. He added that investors should not be overly concerned.

"Geopolitical tensions are something that you need to keep in mind but in most cases, it doesn't actually impact your portfolio," said Viktor Shvets, head of strategy at Macquarie Securities Group, adding that these tensions are here to stay in the near future.

A senior White House official said Tuesday evening U.S. time that the meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen as the first step in a "results-oriented relationship." The official added that Trump sees North Korea as a test for the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

The ASX 200 traded up 0.34 percent or 19.6 points to finish at 5,876.20. Gains were largely supported by the materials sub-index, which surged 2.19 percent, and the energy sub-index, which jumped 1.52 percent.

Japan's benchmark index was higher by 0.27 percent or 51 points to finish at 18,861.27.

Sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Toshiba appealed to its creditors for a new loan and offered a stake in its memory chip unit as collateral.

The Japanese conglomerate's semiconductor business is currently in the process of being split off, after it reported a multi-billion dollar loss related to its U.S. nuclear power plant construction subsidiary. Shares of Toshiba spiked 3.92 percent at 214.9 yen per share.

South Korea's Kospi closed effectively flat at 2,160.85, amid geopolitical concerns on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea's central bank chief Lee Ju-yeol said policy efforts are needed to restore private consumption that have been affected by several factors, including the political scandal involving ousted President Park Geun-hye.

Mainland Chinese shares resumed trading in positive territory after two days of public holiday. The Shanghai composite gained 1.48 percent and Shenzhen composite surged 1.85 percent. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was higher by 0.16 percent at 3:22 pm HK/SIN.

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

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.19 percent at 20,689.24, the S&P 500 was nearly flat, up just 0.06 percent at 2,360.16 and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.07 percent to finish at 5,898.61.

Trump also said that his administration was working on "haircut" for the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, to make it easier for banks to loan money.

Asian banks were mostly in the doldrums. Major Japanese banks were in the red, with Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho Financial both lower by 0.95 percent at 676.8 and 197.2 yen per stock respectively. With the exception of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, major Australian banks ended in the red. Chinese banks were mixed, with Bank of China lower by 0.54 percent but China Construction Bank higher by 1.01 percent.

On the currency front, the dollar last traded at 100.530 against a basket of currencies at 1:57 pm HK/SIN. Against the greenback, the yen was weaker at 110.70, versus levels around 111 seen earlier this week, and the Australian dollar was softer at $0.7577, slipping from the $0.7600 handle it traded at yesterday.

"The move lower in the Australian dollar was sparked by the RBA policy announcement yesterday afternoon," said Rodrigo Catril, currency strategist at National Australia Bank, in a Wednesday note. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) had left policy unchanged at 1.5 percent on Tuesday, on the back of a weaker labor market and rising housing prices.

The Canadian dollar has weakened against the dollar overnight to a three-week low, after it posted an unexpected trade deficit as February exports tumbled. The loonie last traded at C$1.3399 during Asian trade.

During Asian hours, global benchmark Brent crude traded up 0.68 percent at $54.54 a barrel, and U.S. crude was up 0.78 percent at $51.43 on the back of slowly tightening market conditions. Crude oil prices on Tuesday U.S. time rose close to a one-month high, after an unplanned production outage in the North Sea.

In other commodity news, Indonesia issued Freeport McMoRan's local unit a temporary special mining permit to allow the miner to apply for a resumption of copper concentrate exports.

Ahead, the U.S. is set to report its ADP employment change in March, ISM Services and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) March meeting minutes.

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker resigned on Tuesday, after admitting that he may have disclosed confidential information about the Fed in 2012.

"As Lacker wasn't currently a voting member, Trump sceptics may be pleased to hear his departure doesn't provide Trump further control over reshaping the Fed," said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a note.