Asia markets close mostly higher as investors keep an eye on Korean Peninsula, dollar steadies

  • The dollar steadied after tumbling Monday as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole conference
  • Markets kept an eye on the Korean Peninsula as U.S.-South Korea military drills continued

Most Asian indexes closed the Tuesday session with moderate gains as investors turned their attention to the U.S. Federal Reserve's annual symposium in Jackson Hole at the end of the week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped for a fifth straight session, its longest losing streak since April 2016, according to Reuters. The index closed down 0.05 percent, or 9.29 points, to close at 19,383.84 after trading higher for most of the morning.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi climbed 0.44 percent, or 10.33 points, to end at 2,365.33, shrugging off jitters seen in the Monday session when U.S.-South Korea military drills began.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.42 percent, or 24.272 points, to close at 5,750.124 as strength in the industrials and materials sub-indexes offset losses in the consumer staples sub-index.

Greater China markets were mixed: Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.11 percent by 3:40 p.m. HK/SIN, while mainland markets were subdued. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.13 percent, or 4.1199 points, to finish at 3,291.0254 and the Shenzhen Composite slid 0.423 percent, or 8.0988 points, to close at 1,908.3198.

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The greenback stabilized after sliding against a basket of currencies on Monday as market watchers awaited clues on monetary policy direction from central bankers at Jackson Hole — although experts predict no surprises ahead.

The dollar index edged up to stand at 93.270 at 3:35 p.m. HK/SIN after falling as low as 92.997 in the overnight session. The U.S. currency also inched higher against the yen, with the greenback last fetching 109.33 yen after fetching as little as 108.86 yen overnight. The dollar had traded above the 110 handle at the end of last week.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will reportedly not be delivering any fresh policy messaging in his speech at Jackson Hole after his comments at a June forum in Portugal prompted traders to take the euro on a wild ride.

Despite that, the euro climbed more than 0.4 percent in the overnight session, likely on anticipation about a potential mention of ECB tapering in Draghi's upcoming speech. The common currency lost some ground to trade at $1.1787 on Tuesday.

Markets appeared to be setting themselves up for a "buy the rumor, sell the fact" scenario in the euro, said IG Chief Market Strategist Chris Weston in a Tuesday note, adding that "the risk of disappointment is certainly growing."

Beyond currency moves, markets will maintain an eye on developments on the Korean Peninsula as joint U.S.-South Korea military drills continue. Despite the decreased number of U.S. personnel participating in the war games — which are an annual occurrence — North Korea said the drills were a "reckless" development, Reuters reported.

On the earnings front, miner BHP announced its full-year profit rose nearly five-fold to $6.7 billion for the year that ended on June 30. Despite the jump, BHP's profit missed a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecast of $7.4 billion. BHP shares tacked on 1.09 percent by the end of the session.

In corporate news, Japan's Fujitsu said it intended to sell its mobile phone operations, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The earliest round of bidding for the unit could take place as soon as September, Nikkei said. Fujitsu stock closed up 0.60 percent.

Meanwhile, China's Great Wall Motor established its interest in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Monday, Reuters reported. It was not apparent if Great Wall Motor wanted to acquire part or all of Fiat Chrysler, Reuters added. Hong Kong-listed shares of the Chinese automaker were halted from trade pending an announcement regarding media reports on the company, Great Wall Motor said in a press release.

Hong Kong property stocks were also in play. China Overseas Land saw its shares rise more than 5 percent after it announced Monday that it was raising its full-year sales target by 10 percent. The company's shares were last up 3.92 percent. Other market movers included Guangzhou R&F Properties climbing 8.49 percent and China Vanke gaining 5.66 percent.

Traders also looked to India's Infosys, which saw its shares retrace some losses after tumbling more than 5 percent on Monday. The move took place despite the company's $2 billion share buyback plans announced at the weekend and followed Vishal Sikka's departure from the CEO position at the IT services company. Infosys shares were last up 0.29 percent.

On the energy front, oil prices clawed back some losses after falling 2 percent on Monday. Global benchmark Brent crude advanced 0.66 percent to trade at $52 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 0.63 percent to trade at $47.67.

Stocks stateside closed mixed on Monday, with a fall in tech and financial stocks capping gains.