Asia Markets

Asian stocks extend gains as Nikkei hits 26-year high; Samsung falls 3%

Key Points
  • Asian stocks closed mostly higher
  • The euro nursed losses and the dollar was steady
  • North and South Korean officials held talks for the first time in more than two years
  • Samsung Electronics estimated a record fourth-quarter operating profit, although it came in below expectations

Asian markets closed mostly higher on Tuesday after a somewhat quiet session on Wall Street. Investors in the region also digested earnings guidance from tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics and kept an eye on developments from inter-Korea talks.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.57 percent, or 135.46 points, to close at 23,849.99 as markets re-opened following a long weekend. The benchmark index also touched its highest levels in 26 years in the trading session.

Trading houses and automakers, which had begun in positive territory, traded mixed. Technology names, meanwhile, finished the session mostly higher, with Sony and SoftBank Group rising 2.71 percent and 0.09 percent, respectively.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi shed 0.12 percent to close at 2,510.23. Talks between North and South Korea, the first of their kind in more than two years, resulted in North Korea stating it would send a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics hosted by the South, Reuters said, citing a South Korean official.

Also of note, South Korea announced Tuesday it would give thought to briefly lifting sanctions against the North if required, in order for the latter to take part in the games.

Shares of Samsung Electronics fell 3.11 percent after the company announced its fourth-quarter earnings guidance on Tuesday. The tech giant said it was estimating a record 15.1 trillion Korean won ($14.13 billion) in operating profit for the quarter. Still, that was a touch below the 15.9 trillion won forecast by Reuters.

Other technology names were mixed. SK Hynix closed down 1.66 percent and LG Electronics climbed 3.81 percent after its stock stumbled in the last session following a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit estimate.

Over in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 clung to gains, closing 0.09 percent higher at 6,135.8. The resource sector was the best-performer of the day, with major mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP rising 2.34 percent and 1.67 percent, respectively.

Greater China markets were also slightly higher. Hong Kong's edged up 0.37 percent at 3:07 p.m. HK/SIN, as investors eyed an 11th straight days of gains. Technology firms and casinos were mostly higher, with Tencent soaring 1.23 percent and Sands China higher by 4.01 percent at 3:09 p.m. HK/SIN.

On the mainland, the tacked on 0.16 percent to close at 3,414.83 and the Shenzhen Composite rose 0.32 percent to end at 1,952.18.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Monday. With no major data released stateside overnight, investors there looked to quarterly earnings releases due at the end of the week.

Several major U.S. banks, including J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo, are among the first names reporting on Friday and investors will be looking for signs about how changes in the taxcode will impact businesses.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 0.05 percent, or 12.87 points, to close at 25,283. Other indexes notched slight gains.

Euro slips

The euro nursed losses after slipping overnight. The common currency traded at $1.1954 at 2:44 p.m. HK/SIN after holding above the $1.20 handle in the first week of the year. The currency had touched its highest levels in almost four months last week.

On Tuesday, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was steady at 92.324, compared to a high of 92.396 seen in the last session, when it had touched a more than one-week high.

Against the yen, the dollar fell to trade at at 112.66. That was below Monday's close of 113.06.

Corporate news

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma said he would think about listing the e-commerce giant in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported. Ma's comments came after Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing said last month it would move forward on plans to allow companies from "emerging and innovative sectors" with dual share classes to list.

Toyota Motor on Monday announced plans to develop autonomous, electric vehicles that would be manufactured to meet the needs of companies in the ride-sharing and delivery sectors. Feasibility testing for the e-Palette Concept Vehicle will begin in the early 2020s, Toyota said in a statement. Toyota shares closed lower by 0.15 percent. Other Japanese automakers were mixed: Nissan was up 0.65 percent and Suzuki Motor declined 1.29 percent by the end of the day.