Asia closes mixed; Reserve Bank of Australia leaves cash rate unchanged as expected

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

Asia markets closed mixed on Tuesday as most major exchanges outside of Japan and Australia resumed after being shut for a public holiday on Monday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept its benchmark cash rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5 percent, largely in line with market expectations. Governor Philip Lowe said in the policy statement that conditions in the house market continue to vary considerable around the country.

"There's currently no monetary policy bias built into the RBA futures curve for this year, with less than 2 basis points of easing "priced in" by December, an understandable less than 10 percent chance of a cut," said David de Garis, director of economics at the National Australia Bank, in a note before the RBA's decision.

The Australian dollar traded as high as $0.7555 after the decision, before easing slightly to $0.7528 at 3:29 p.m. HK/SIN. The Aussie climbed from levels below $0.7500 on Monday.

In the equity market, the benchmark ASX 200 finished down 6.15 points, or 0.1 percent, at 5,950.37, with the heavily-weighted financial sector down 0.81 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 135.18 points, or 0.7 percent, to 19,445.7, while the Topix index finished up 10.53 points, or 0.68 percent, to 1,550.3.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed up 14.23 points, or 0.65 percent, at 2,219.67. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 0.16 percent in late-afternoon trade and Singapore's STI was up 0.9 percent.

Chinese mainland markets closed lower, where the Shanghai composite was down 10.94 points, or 0.35 percent, at 3,143.71 and the Shenzhen composite was near flat.

Bank earnings were also on investors' radar today.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), one of the country's so-called Big Four banks, reported 2017 half year results before market open. ANZ said its cash profit rose 23 percent to 3.41 billion Australian dollars ($2.57 billion) in the six months ended March 31, 2017.

ANZ shares closed down 2.12 percent. The other major Australian banks also fell; shares of Commonwealth Bank dropped 0.72 percent, Westpac was down 0.91 percent and the National Australia Bank was lower by 0.23 percent.

Meanwhile, Singapore's top lender, DBS Group, reported that first quarter net interest income came in nearly flat at 1.831 billion Singapore dollars ($1.31 billion), down slightly from S$1.833 billion a year ago. DBS shares rose 2.33 percent in afternoon trade, while competitors OCBC also rose 1.84 percent and UOB was up by 3.58 percent.

In the currency market, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, traded at 99.09, climbing from levels near 98.88 in the previous session.

With the Federal Open Market Committee set to begin a two-day policy meeting later in the global day, the outcome is "not expected to yield any significant change in terms of policy stance," Wei Liang Chang, a foreign exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.

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Chang added the dollar could see seasonal strength in May, "perhaps helped by risk paring given the "sell in May" adage, and also the fading of Q1 U.S. data weakness into strength, which has recurred consistently in recent years."

Among currency majors, the yen traded at 112.09 at 3:36 p.m. HK/SIN. Major Japanese exporters were mixed, with Toyota gaining 1.67 percent, Nissan up 1.13 percent and Mitsubishi Electric was down 0.19 percent. Sony shares declined 0.52 percent.

Elsewhere, the euro fetched $1.0917.

Meanwhile, oil prices pared some of early losses in the late afternoon during Asian hours. U.S. crude price traded near flat at $48.81 a barrel at 3:38 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from an earlier session low of $48.54. Price for global benchmark Brent traded at $51.52.