Asian stocks close mixed; investors focus on political developments

  • Asian indexes closed mixed on Monday
  • The U.S. government shutdown will continue for a third day after the Senate failed to reach a deal on Sunday night
  • Central banks will be in focus this week, with the Bank of Japan beginning a two-day meeting on Monday
  • Shares of Toshiba rose more than 4 percent following news the company was contemplating the option of listing its memory chip unit

Most Asian markets closed mixed on Monday as investors kept an eye on political developments in the U.S. after a government shutdown began last week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed, closing higher by 0.03 percent at 23,816.33. Automakers were mixed: Toyota shed 0.78 percent while Mitsubishi Motors tacked on 1.74 percent by the end of the day. Technology stocks were mostly higher, with Sony closing up 1.09 percent and SoftBank Group advancing 0.95 percent.

Shares of Toshiba popped 4.35 percent. The move higher followed news that the company was contemplating listing its memory unit. An IPO was one suggestion under consideration should the $18 billion sale of its chip unit to a Bain-led consortium fail to secure approval from regulators by end-March, the Financial Times reported Monday, citing sources.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Meanwhile, South Korea's Kospi declined 0.72 percent to end at 2,502.11 as index heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 2.19 percent on the day. Other technology stocks were mixed, with chipmaker SK Hynix declining 3 percent and LG Display gaining 0.99 percent by the end of the session.

The manufacturing, finance and retail sectors were also a mixed picture, with steelmaker Posco closing down 2.08 percent and Lotte Shopping off by 0.43 percent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 gave up gains seen earlier in the session to finish the session 0.23 percent lower at 5,991.9. The heavily-weighted financials sector declined 0.78 percent, weighing on the broader index. Shares of Commonwealth Bank sank 1.23 percent, underperforming other banking names.

National Australia Bank, another of the country's "Big Four" banks, is reportedly considering spinning out its wealth arm for a potential listing, the Australian Financial Review reported, citing sources. NAB shares were lower by 0.55 percent.

Greater China markets were in positive territory. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.35 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN, with casino stocks in positive territory — Sands China was up 3.48 percent and SJM Holdings rose 4.52 percent ahead of the market close. The technology and financials sectors were mixed, meanwhile, with Tencent higher by 1.33 percent and HSBC softer by 0.29 percent.

On the mainland, the Shanghai composite added 0.39 percent to close at 3,501.36 and the Shenzhen composite gained 1.16 percent to end at 1,943.91. The blue chip CSI 300 index was higher by 1.19 percent.

US government shutdown extends

Stateside, the U.S. government shutdown will continue for a third day after the Senate failed to secure a deal on Sunday night.

Prior to the Sunday development, there had been some signs of progress, with Republicans appearing unified over plans to end the impasse with a temporary solution. Democrats, however, want an immigration agreement in place before they support a spending plan.

"The shutdown in the U.S. looks set to dominate market attention this week. It is likely to result in plenty of noise, but no dramatic shifts in trends," ANZ Research said in a morning note.

U.S. futures tracked lower on Monday, but pared some losses late in the morning. The Dow Jones industrial average futures was last lower by 33 points. On Friday, stocks had closed in positive territory as earnings season rolled on.

Currency watch

Against the yen, the dollar traded at 110.87 — near Friday's close of 110.76. The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of six currencies, traded at 90.665.

The euro traded at $1.2217 at 2:59 p.m. HK/SIN after rising to $1.2274 earlier. The common currency had initially firmed after Germany's Social Democrats agreed to embark on formal coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government following a weekend party vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron's weekend comments were also in focus for currency markets. Macron said the U.K. could have a bespoke arrangement with the European Union following Brexit, although London would not have the same degree of access to the bloc if the U.K. left the single market, Reuters reported. The pound last traded at $1.3861.

What's on tap

Central banks, meanwhile, will be in focus this week as the Bank of Japan convenes a two-day monetary policy meeting beginning Monday. No major changes are expected.

Investors sent the dollar tumbling against the yen earlier this month after the central bank moved to slightly reduce its purchases of long-dated Japanese government bonds. Still, a move away from ultra-easy policy is seen by many as some ways away.

In Europe, the European Central Bank is set to make its interest rates decision on Thursday.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.