Asia Markets

Asian stocks climb and the dollar holds onto gains as North Korea and Irma concerns fade

Key Points
  • Stocks climbed in Asia following the rally on Wall Street
  • Dollar held onto most gains made overnight
  • Markets were optimistic after it looked like Hurricane Irma had caused less damage than previously forecast
  • The United Nations Security Council voted to step up sanctions against North Korea

Shares in Asia continued their ascent on Tuesday, following a firm lead from Wall Street as concerns faded over the potential damage of Hurricane Irma and as Korean Peninsula tensions took a backseat.

The MSCI International ex-Japan index rose 0.57 percent to hit a 10-year high during the session.

Japan's rose 1.18 percent, or 230.85 points, to close at 19,776.62 as the dollar held onto most overnight gains against the yen. Major exporters finished the session higher: Honda was up 2.21 percent, Panasonic rose 3.81 percent and Nintendo added 3.27 percent.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi gained 0.27 percent to close at 2,365.47. Blue chips, however, were a mixed picture: Samsung Electronics closed down 0.4 percent, but SK Hynix was 1.22 percent higher.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 tacked on 0.58 percent to close at 5,746.4, with bank stocks driving gains in the broader index. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index was up 1.3 percent by the end of the session.

Greater China markets, meanwhile, were mostly flat. The edged up 0.04 percent by 3:15 p.m. HK/SIN after trading sideways for most of the session. On the mainland, the advanced 0.11 percent to close at 3,380.2892 but the Shenzhen Composite slid 0.277 percent to end at 1,986.2081.

Trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange was suspended on Tuesday due to flooding in Manila following a storm.

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.