Asia Markets

Asian shares rally as trade fears ease; Nikkei advances 376 points

Key Points
  • Asian stocks rallied as concerns over a potential trade war faded.
  • Oil prices edged higher after settling higher by 2.2 percent in the last session.
  • Australia's central bank held interest rates steady, as was widely expected.

Asian stocks closed sharply higher on Tuesday as concerns over a potential trade war stemming from President Donald Trump's plan to implement tariffs on metals imports faded.

Japan's jumped 1.79 percent, or 375.67 points, to close at 21,417.76, snapping a four-day losing streak. The gains also came as the dollar firmed against the yen amid receding trade-related fears. The dollar fetched 106.23 yen at 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN after falling as low as 105.34 in the overnight session.

Exporters gained on the firmer dollar, with automakers, technology and manufacturers higher for the most part. Other large caps also recorded significant gains, with Fast Retailing up 2.81 percent.

Over in South Korea, the benchmark Kospi advanced 1.53 percent to close at 2,411.41, with gains seen across sectors, including chipmakers. Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics jumped 4.03 percent and SK Hynix surged 5.24 percent.

Hong Kong's gained 2.32 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN after slipping below the 30,000 level in the last session. Shares of Tencent, the most heavily weighted stock on the index, were up 4.14 percent, as other large caps also put in a strong showing. Insurer AIA rose 3.2 percent and China Construction Bank tacked on 2.96 percent an hour before the market close.

The upbeat sentiment was also evident on the mainland, with the advancing 1.02 percent to close at 3,290.17 and the Shenzhen composite adding 1.17 percent to end at 1,852.22.

China's National People's Congress, which kicked off on Monday, is also underway. For the next two weeks, the large rubber-stamp parliament will move on to pass major bills and endorse personnel nominations.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.14 percent to end at 5,962.40, with 11 of its 12 sub-indexes closing in positive territory.

The energy and materials sectors were among the best-performing sectors, rising 1.89 percent and 1.72 percent, respectively, while the heavily weighted financials sub-index gained 0.85 percent.

In individual stocks, Japan's Kobe Steel closed higher by 0.09 percent after paring more substantial gains seen earlier. The company's Chief Executive Officer Hiroya Kawasaki is slated to step down after a data falsification scandal that erupted last year, Reuters reported, citing Nikkei.

Meanwhile, energy-related stocks and oil producers in the region rose as oil prices held onto gains after settling 2.2 percent higher in the last session. Australia's Woodside Petroleum went up 1.58 percent and Japan's JXTG Holdings advanced 3.88 percent by the end of the session, while shares of CNOOC listed in Hong Kong popped 4.44 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate edged up 0.18 percent to trade at $62.68 after settling 2.2 percent higher on Monday. Brent crude futures climbed 0.11 percent to trade at $65.61.

Hyundai Heavy Industries surged 12.55 percent on the day. The shipbuilder intends to raise around $843 million in a new share issuance, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Trade war fears ease

Stateside, the Dow Jones industrial average gained after four straight days of losses, which came after Donald Trump's announcement last week that tariffs would be implemented on steel and aluminum imports.

The tariffs encountered push back from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said he was "extremely worried" about the plan. In response, Trump indicated he would not back down from his decision.

Trump on Monday also appeared to signal those tariffs could be open to negotiation, tweeting that the tariffs will not be implemented if a "fair" NAFTA agreement is reached.

U.S. stock indexes recorded gains of more than 1 percent, with the Dow closing up 336.70 points, or 1.37 percent. Elsewhere, European markets appeared to shrug off concerns over the prospects of a hung parliament in Italy.

"Investors were relieved that China did not retaliate over the weekend but with President Trump singling out China by calling them 'the biggest problem,' it's only a matter of time before the Asian giant responds," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy for BK Asset Management, wrote in a note.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was steady at 89.984 at 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN after climbing above the 90 handle in the last session.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar last traded at $0.7772, above Monday's close of $0.7761. Reaction in the currency to the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hold rates steady, a move widely expected by markets, was fairly muted.

— CNBC's Huileng Tan contributed to this report.