Asian markets closed narrowly mixed on Wednesday as investors searched for direction following the mixed close on Wall Street in the last session. Investors in the region digested mixed trade data out of China and kept an eye on President Donald Trump's tour of Asia.
Markets on the move
Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.1 percent at 22,913.82 a day after the benchmark index hit a 26-year high.
Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi edged up 0.27 percent to end at 2,552.4 after trading flat earlier in the day. Gains in blue chip names offset losses in financials and automakers and manufacturing stocks: Samsung Electronics ended 1.18 percent higher, SK Hynix rose 0.97 percent and Posco closed down 2.31 percent.
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 inched higher by 0.03 percent to finish the session at 6,016.27. Mining stocks pared gains made in the last session. The heavily-weighted financials sub-index held in the green to trade higher by 0.64 percent on the day.
Commonwealth Bank announced unaudited net profit for the three months ending September climbed to 2.8 billion Australian dollars ($2.14 billion). Cash earnings for the quarter rose 6 percent to A$2.65 billion ($2.03 billion). Commonwealth shares closed up 2.65 percent, outperforming other banking stocks, which notched moderate gains.
Greater China markets were narrowly mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 0.1 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN. Mainland markets gave up gains made during early afternoon trade to close mostly flat on the day. The Shanghai Composite added 0.04 percent to end at 3,414.91 and the Shenzhen Composite closed 0.05 percent higher at 2,013.71.
October trade data released Wednesday showed China's exports rose 6.9 percent from one year ago, compared to the 7.2 percent forecast in a Reuters poll. Imports rose 17.2 percent, above the 16 percent forecast. China's surplus with the U.S., meanwhile, declined to $26.2 billion from $28.08 billion last month, Reuters added.
"Markets seem unsure which way to go next ... [given how] all the key releases were last week," Rob Carnell, Asia head of research at ING, said in a note.
U.S. markets closed mixed on Tuesday as investors digested news that Disney had been in discussions with 21st Century Fox over a deal, although it wasn't certain any agreements would result from that.
The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.04 percent, or 8.81 points, to close at 23,557.23. Other major indexes finished below the flat line.
The lead up
President Donald Trump addressed the Korean National Assembly on Wednesday as his five-country tour of Asia rolled on. The president warned that the U.S. should not be underestimated and added that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was putting his regime in "grave danger" by continuing to acquire weapons.
Trump arrived in China on Wednesday afternoon. He is expected to discuss trade-related issues and North Korea with his Chinese counterparts.
Tax reform was in the spotlight stateside, with Senate Republicans slated to unveil their tax bill. However, it remained unclear what the exact date of the release would be. The draft House tax bill was released last week.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six currencies, was a touch firmer at 94.921 by 2:54 p.m. HK/SIN, against Tuesday's close of 94.848. Against the yen, the U.S. currency edged down to trade at 113.81.
Toyota raised its full-year operating profit estimate to 2 trillion yen on Tuesday. That was an 8 percent increase compared to its previous forecast of 1.85 trillion yen. Toyota shares tacked on 0.99 percent by the end of the day as other automaker names finished the session mixed.
Meanwhile, Tencent's China Literature made its debut in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Shares of the online e-book platform soared up to 100 percent during the session, compared to its issue price of 55 Hong Kong dollars ($7.05) apiece at the open. Tencent shares were off 0.2 percent at 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN.
The commodities trade
Oil prices extended losses on Wednesday after sliding in the last session. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude shed 0.58 percent to trade at $56.87. Brent crude futures lost 0.55 percent to trade at $63.34.
Oil had settled 3 percent higher on Monday following a supposed anti-corruption purge in Saudi Arabia and the surprise resignation of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri over the weekend.