Asia Markets

Asian stocks close mixed after Christmas; China markets gain

Key Points
  • Asian markets closed mixed on Tuesday as several regional markets re-opened after the Christmas break
  • Japanese stocks pulled back slightly after touching a 26-year high on Monday
  • November core consumer prices for Japan rose for an 11th straight month
  • Exchanges in much of the world were closed on Monday
  • Gold prices touched their highest levels in three weeks

Asian indexes closed mixed on Tuesday after a session of light, holiday-week trading in most markets.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index came under slight pressure after closing at a 26-year high in the last session. The index closed lower by 0.2 percent at 22,892.69 in thin holiday trade as most technology and auto names drifted lower.

Most Japanese retailers edged higher, with shares of department store operator Takashimaya popping 3.76 percent by the end of the session after touching a more than two-year high earlier. Takashimaya on Monday announced a 5.6 percent increase in operating profit for the nine months ending November, Reuters said.

Core consumer prices for November released Tuesday rose for an 11th consecutive month, although higher prices were largely due to higher fuel costs, Reuters said. The core consumer price index increased 0.9 percent in the month, above the median 0.8 percent forecast, according to the news agency.

Meanwhile, minutes for the Bank of Japan's October meeting showed most board members thought it was necessary for the central bank to "persistently pursue powerful monetary easing," but that additional measures were not needed now.

In South Korea, the Kospi gave up early gains to close down 0.54 percent at 2,427.34 as declines in blue chip tech names dragged the index lower. Samsung Electronics lost 3.02 percent and SK Hynix declined 3.52 percent by the end of the day.

Mainland China markets clawed back gains after finishing lower in the last session. The added 0.78 percent to end at 3,305.89 and the Shenzhen Composite tacked on 0.43 percent to close at 1,892.02. Industrials and financials were among the best-performing sectors in both markets on the day.

The People's Bank of China on Tuesday raised the yuan midpoint to 6.5416 per dollar — its firmest level in 3-1/2 months, Reuters said. That came after the yuan closed at its strongest level in the same amount of time on Monday.

The offshore yuan traded at 6.5482 yuan to the dollar at 3:07 p.m. HK/SIN Tuesday, paring gains after touching a high of 6.5332 earlier in the session. In the on-shore market, the currency traded at 6.5485. The central bank lets the yuan spot rate rise or fall a maximum of 2 percent against the dollar, relative to its official rate.

Elsewhere, shares of Singapore-based conglomerate Keppel tumbled 2.95 percent by 3:11 p.m. HK/SIN. The move followed an announcement from the company's offshore and marine unit last week that it would be paying $422 million in penalties linked to bribery charges, Reuters reported.

Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand markets remain closed on Tuesday.

Exchanges in much of the world were closed on Monday as well, including Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. U.S. and European markets were also closed, though New York will be back in action on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was largely flat at 93.278 at 2:49 p.m. HK/SIN. The dollar was a touch firmer against the yen at 113.31.

Bitcoin recoups some losses

Meanwhile, bitcoin rose compared with prices seen before the Christmas weekend when the cryptocurrency had lost around a quarter of its value in volatile trade. That was despite news out of Israel that regulators would be looking into prohibiting bitcoin-focused companies from trading on the stock exchange, according to Reuters.

After touching a high of $15,503.82, the cryptocurrency pared gains to trade at $15,406.37 at 2:50 p.m. HK/SIN, according to industry site CoinDesk.

On the commodities front, gold prices inched higher to trade at a more than three-week high amid the softer dollar. Spot gold traded at $1,278.06 an ounce at 2:50 p.m. HK/SIN.

Oil prices were little changed, with Brent crude trading near its highest levels since mid-2015. Brent crude futures were flat at $65.25 per barrel and U.S. crude edged up 0.09 percent to $58.52.