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Asian stocks slip as US yields inch closer to 3 percent

Key Points
  • Asian stocks closed mostly lower in Monday trade.
  • The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note neared 3 percent.
  • The greenback extended gains against the yen.
  • Oil prices were mostly steady.

Asian stocks closed mostly lower on Monday, as investors kept an eye on rising U.S. Treasury yields and digested declines in technology stocks seen stateside.

The Nikkei 225 shed 0.33 percent, or 74.20 points, to close at 22,088.04 while the broader Topix finished the day nearly flat. Among sectors, insurers, banks and shippers led gains, while technology was a mixed bag.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Elsewhere, the Kospi closed off by 0.09 percent at 2,474.11 ahead of an inter-Korea summit due to take place at the end of the week. Automakers and retailers declined as steelmakers climbed. Shinwon Corporation, a company that has exposure to North Korea, jumped 15.89 percent.

Greater China markets reversed earlier gains, with the Shanghai composite slipping 0.09 percent to end at 3,068.80 and the Shenzhen composite closing down 0.8 percent at 1,764.20. Hong Kong's eased 0.26 percent by 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN as slight gains in financials were erased by losses in the technology sector.

Gains, however, were seen in Australia: The S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.29 percent to 5,886, with the financials subindex and gold producers leading gains.

MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was down 0.29 percent during Asia afternoon trade.

The subdued performance in Asia followed declines in U.S. stock indexes on Friday amid a fall in Apple shares, which pushed the technology sector lower. Apple tumbled 4.1 percent following a Morgan Stanley note said iPhone sales in the June quarter would miss expectations.

US yields in focus

Also of note was the move higher in U.S. Treasury yields, which has in turn supported the dollar. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note stood at 2.9789 percent in afternoon Asian trade after rising as high as 2.981 percent earlier, its highest level since January 2014.

"While the Fed's tightening cycle would be expected to cause some flattening pressure, too much can put the brakes on as an inverted yield curve may suggest investors are losing confidence in the outlook, preferring to accept a lower yield for a longer duration than risk short term rates falling if the economy tanks," said ANZ analysts in a morning note.

"As the Fed continues to lift its target rate, the curve is definitely one to keep an eye on."

The influence of higher oil prices last week on inflation expectations and heavy Treasury issuance this week were among the factors affecting Treasury markets, Omar Slim, senior vice president for fixed income at PineBridge Investments, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"I don't know if we're going to hit [3 percent] today, but we're definitely going towards that direction," Slim said.

Investors also had their eye on the earnings season stateside, with more than one third of S&P 500 companies expected to report this week.

Meanwhile, U.S.-China trade tensions that had spooked markets earlier in the month also weren't far from investors' minds after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday said a trip to China was "under consideration."

Asian stocks had ended the last session with moderate losses after technology shares in the region took a hit on the back of weak guidance from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) on Thursday.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of currencies, was mostly steady at 90.389. Against the yen, the greenback firmed to trade at 107.83 by 2:40 p.m. HK/SIN, from levels around 107.65 seen at the end of the last session.

On the commodities front, oil prices were slightly softer. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was lower by 0.22 percent at $68.25 per barrel and Brent crude futures were off by 0.14 percent at $73.96.

On Friday, oil prices had initially slid on the back of President Donald Trump's comments on Twitter that OPEC was keeping crude prices "artificially Very High," before recovering and settling slightly higher.