Asia Markets

Asian shares close mixed on geopolitical risks; Toshiba earnings eyed

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asian equities finished mixed on Tuesday, as investors paid particular attention to Toshiba's twice-delayed earnings results and as geopolitical tensions continued to weigh.

South Korea's Kospi fell by 0.44 percent or 9.47 points to end at 2,123.85. Concerns over geopolitical tensions continue to build on the Korean Peninsula after the U.S. deployed a carrier strike group closer to the region.

"(T)here is new focus on Korea, where the Korean won and Kospi have found sellers easy to come by of late on concern that North Korea could be a future U.S. target," said Chris Weston, IG's chief market strategist, in a Tuesday note.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 0.27 percent or 50.01 points to finish at 1495.1, as the dollar/yen slipped below the 111.00 handle.

In corporate news, Foxconn has offered a $27 billion bid for Toshiba's memory chip unit, the Wall Street Journal reported. Toshiba put its NAND flash memory unit up for sale last month in a bid to cover billions in losses from its U.S. nuclear energy unit Westinghouse.

The Japanese conglomerate may file twice-delayed earnings later in the day even if auditors do not sign off, Reuters reported. The company said it would hold a press conference at 7:00 am GMT or 3:00 pm HK/SIN time. Shares of the company dropped by 2.7 percent to close at 223.5 yen per stock following the news, having plunged 17.2 percent year-to-date.

"It's a bit of a mess here right now for Toshiba," Mark Newman, managing director and senior analyst at Bernstein, told CNBC. "The cost overruns at Westinghouse CB&I are huge and they don't know how to deal with this ... If the accountants are still not signing off on this, even at that number, then it makes it look like there's potentially much, much worse."

Shares of Sharp, which was acquired by Foxconn last year, were also in the red, selling off by 9.65 percent to end at 365 yen a stock. Dow Jones reported that market talk suggests Sharp may lose the race to develop the next-generation OLED screen for smartphones to South Korea's LG.

Given the speculative nature of the rise in its share price, Sharp shares could see "substantially more downside" if retail investors rush to get out, according to Amir Anvarzadeh, head of Japanese equity sales at BGC Partners.

Mainland Chinese markets reversed losses made earlier in the session, with the higher by 0.58 percent and the Shenzhen Composite up 0.691 percent. The Hang Seng Index was lower by 0.86 percent at 3:00 pm HK/SIN time.

Guotai Junan debuts in Hong Kong as biggest IPO this year

Earlier in the day, Guotai Junan Securities, the third-largest brokerage in China, debuted on the Hong Kong Exchange at a fixed price of HK$15.84 per stock, and last traded flat at 3:03 pm HK/SIN. The IPO raised HK$16.5 billion ($2.12 billion).

Meanwhile, Australia's benchmark ASX 200 index was the sole bright spot in a sea of red. It bounced 0.28 percent or 16.416 points to close at 5,929.3. The National Australia Bank reported its measure of business confidence came in at +6 in March, a dip from +7 the previous month.

On the energy front, both Brent crude and U.S. crude prices reversed gains made earlier in the session when prices hit five-week highs. Brent slid 0.29 percent to trade at $55.82 a barrel while U.S. crude was lower by 0.36 percent at $52.88.

Dollar to 'edge a little bit higher'

In currency news, the dollar traded at 101.050 against a basket of currencies at 2:15 pm HK/SIN time, off the 3-week high set yesterday. Likewise, the dollar/yen traded lower at 110.67 compared to levels around 111 seen yesterday while the Aussie was effectively flat at $0.7501. Against the greenback, the won traded at a near one-month low of 1,145.7.

"The world's press and social media are obsessed with a video of a man being forcibly removed from a plane and the FX market doesn't really know what to do with itself on a day of limited news," Societe Generale global fixed income strategist Kit Juckes said in a note.

Yellen said overnight that plans to raise U.S. interest rates gradually are aimed at sustaining full employment and near-2-percent inflation without letting the economy overheat.

U.S. equities closed marginally higher, with the gaining 0.07 percent to finish at 2,357.16 and the Nasdaq higher by 0.05 percent to end at 5,880.93. The Dow Jones industrial average was effectively flat, trading higher by 0.01 percent to close at 20,658.02.