Asia Markets

Asian shares waver after Wall Street closes at record levels

Key Points
  • The pound extended gains after rising on better-than-expected U.K. inflation; BOE decision on Thursday
  • The dollar index ceded some ground
  • Shares of Apple suppliers were in focus after Apple unveiled the iPhone X
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked up tax reform on Tuesday

Stocks in Asia finished the Wednesday session mixed despite notching gains earlier in the day on the back of Wall Street closing at record levels.

Japan's rose 0.45 percent, or 89.2 points, to close at 19,865.82 on the softer yen. Major exporters extended gains made in the previous session, with automakers, banks and most tech companies trading higher.

Across the Korean Strait, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index closed down 0.22 percent at 2,360.18.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 gave up early gains to close 0.04 percent lower at 5,744.3, with losses in telecommunication services and energy offsetting slight gains in materials and financials.

Greater China markets were mixed. Hong Kong's was off 0.27 percent by 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN, looking to break a three-day win streak, but mainland markets reversed earlier losses to finish higher. The Shanghai Composite advanced 0.18 percent to close at 3,385.5375 and the Shenzhen Composite gained 0.441 percent to end at 1,994.9765.

The MSCI Asia Pacific ex Japan index edged down after notching a fresh 10-year high earlier in the session, trading lower by 0.11 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN.

Still, market watchers noted that risk sentiment appeared to have improved on the whole.

"Financial markets seem to have abruptly stopped worrying about the end of the world," said Rob Carnell, Asia head of research at ING, in a morning note.

"It won't last. But until the next risk-off event appears, we might as well enjoy it and can focus back on the underlying macro story," he added.

The dollar gave up some of Monday's gains made against a basket of major currencies. The dollar index stood at 91.803 at 2:46 p.m. HK/SIN. Against the yen, the greenback lost some steam but continued to hold above the 110 level hit overnight. The dollar last fetched 110.06 yen.

"With no major U.S. economic reports released [Tuesday], the gains in the greenback were driven by the continued rise in U.S. yields," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note.

Indexes on Wall Street closed at record levels, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 0.28 percent, or 61.49 points, to close at a record 22,118.86.

Apple suppliers in Asia were in focus during the session after the company unveiled its newest iPhone model — the iPhone X — at a product launch on Tuesday. Apple stock closed 0.4 percent lower on Tuesday.

South Korean memory chip maker SK Hynix closed by 1.34 percent higher and Samsung Electronics closed up 0.04 percent, after rising more than 1 percent earlier in the session. Apple suppliers in Taiwan were under pressure, with lens supplier Largan Precision falling 3.84 percent by the end of the session. Hon Hai Precision Industry, which assembles Apple iPhones, closed down 1.28 percent.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that tax reform could be backdated to Jan. 1, 2017 as it would be a "big boon for the economy." Mnuchin also told CNBC that the Trump administration was "super focused" on ensuring tax reform would be completed by the end of the year.

Mnuchin's comments also supported the rise in U.S. Treasury yields, which climbed on data releases stateside overnight. Yields of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note on Wednesday edged down to around 2.16 percent from the 2.17 percent seen Tuesday.

Risk sentiment likely improved as immediate concerns over geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula faded. The United Nations Security Council on Monday imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea, including a cap on oil imports. In response, the hermit state on Tuesday rejected those sanctions and said the U.S. would "suffer the greatest pain."

Markets stateside were also supported as damage caused by a downgraded hurricane in Florida looked to be lesser than originally thought.

In currencies, the pound firmed after U.K. August inflation rose 2.9 percent compared to one year ago, a tad higher than the 2.8 percent forecast by economists in a Reuters poll. The release of inflation data came ahead of the Bank of England's interest rate decision on Thursday in the U.K.

extended gains to trade at $1.3325 at 3:23 p.m. HK/SIN, above a high of $1.3294 seen in the previous session.

In corporate news, Toshiba said it would be speeding up talks to sell its flash memory unit to a consortium led by Bain Capital after signing a memorandum on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Toshiba stock finished the session flat.

On the energy front, oil prices slipped after rising in the previous session. U.S. crude edged down 0.06 percent to trade at $48.20 a barrel and Brent crude slipped 0.18 percent to trade at $54.17. A larger-than-expected rise in U.S. crude inventories likely weighed on energy markets despite an an OPEC forecast that oil demand would increase in 2018 released on Tuesday.