Stocks on Wall Street closed higher on Monday as investors assessed the damage from Irma, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding 259.58 points to close at 22,057.37.
Hurricane Irma, originally a Category 5 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved inland. Irma hit the coast of Florida over the weekend and markets grew optimistic after the hurricane looked to have caused less damage than originally thought.
Investors also kept an eye on geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the United Nations Security Council voted to increase sanctions against North Korea on Monday. North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test earlier this month. The additional UN sanctions included a limit on the amount of crude oil imported by the North, according to Reuters.
The increased global confidence led to the dollar firming. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six currencies, stood at 91.852 at 3:06 p.m. HK/SIN, holding onto most of its overnight gains. The index had fallen touched a 2-1/2-year low of 91.011 last Friday.
The U.S. currency was also steady against the yen, with the greenback last fetching 109.56 yen compared to levels around the 108.5 handle seen toward the end of the Asian trading session on Monday.
Yields of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.14 percent at 3:07 p.m. HK/SIN after falling to their lowest levels since November last week.
In currencies, China's central bank set the yuan midpoint lower at 6.5277 a dollar, breaking an 11-day rising streak, Reuters said. The People's Bank of China lets the yuan spot rate against the dollar rise or fall up to 2 percent relative to the midpoint. The move took place after the PBOC unwound some measures taken to support the currency.
The on-shore yuan fell as low as 5.478 before firming slightly to trade at 6.5318 to the dollar by 3:07 p.m. HK/SIN. The offshore yuan was traded at 6.5393 to the U.S. currency.
While markets read the changes as a "policy desire to keep yuan strength in check," the move was merely a "return to liberalization as capital outflow fears abate," said Chang Wei Liang, a strategist at Mizuho Bank, in a note. He cautioned against over-interpretation of the change in rules as policy guidance on the yuan.
On the energy front, oil prices were largely unchanged. U.S. crude was off 0.08 percent at $48.03 a barrel after settling 1.2 percent higher overnight. Brent crude futures edged down 0.13 percent to trade at $53.77. The spike in oil prices overnight came as refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast began to resume operations after a shutdown due to Hurricane Harvey, Reuters reported.
In corporate news, Spain is looking into Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's European operations as it probes potential money laundering, according to Reuters. Authorities are reportedly looking at the bank's ties with several Chinese clients. Shares of the bank listed on the mainland reversed earlier losses to close up 0.68 percent while Hong Kong-listed shares were off 0.17 percent by 3:11 p.m. HK/SIN.
In individual stocks, the Japanese government announced Monday that it would sell $12 billion of Japan Post Holdings stock. Reaction from fund managers, however, was lukewarm as the company's potential for growth wasn't attractive, Reuters said. Still, the postal company's shares closed up 3.94 percent.
Meanwhile, Japan's Fast Retailing, clothing line Uniqlo's parent company, outpaced gains made by Japanese retailers to close up 4.54 percent. The company had been upgraded to "buy" by Deutsche Bank in a Sept. 11 note.
"The stock has softened since January owing to investor concerns about worsening Uniqlo Japan profit, and we upgrade it to 'buy' as we see room to the upside," Deutsche Bank Group Research Analyst Takahiro Kazahaya and Research Associate Akane Wang said in the note.