Asia Markets

Asian stocks close higher while oil loses steam as investors await Trump Iran decision

Key Points
  • Asian stocks closed higher, with the Nikkei 225 reversing early weakness and ending higher by 41.53 points.
  • Oil prices declined after President Donald Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday.
  • The dollar index was steady after touching its highest levels since December on Monday.

Asian markets closed higher on Tuesday, with oil prices tracking lower following President Donald Trump's announcement that he would make a decision on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday during U.S. hours.

The reversed early weakness to close higher by 0.18 percent, or 41.53 points, at 22,508.69 and the Topix edged up by 0.37 percent, with 25 of its 33 subindexes closing higher. Financials and technology rose, while the mining and oil sectors fell 1.41 percent and 1.33 percent, respectively.

Across the Korean Strait, the benchmark Kospi slipped 0.47 percent to close at 2,449.81.

Strength in the technology sector stateside carried over to the Asian trading day, buoying the broader index, with heavyweight Samsung Electronics rising 1.35 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix climbing 0.6 percent.

Over in Hong Kong, the advanced 1.4 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN amid broad-based gains. The technology and heavily weighted financials sectors were among the best-performing before the market close, with Tencent last higher by 3.16 percent at 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN.

Mainland markets also saw convincing gains, with the closing higher by 0.8 percent at 3,161.60 and the Shenzhen composite edging up by 0.77 percent to 1,836.22.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.12 percent to finish the day at 6,091.90, as the 0.82 percent gain in the financials sector supported the index's overall gains despite declines in energy and materials.

Iran nuclear deal in focus

Oil prices declined on Tuesday following President Donald Trump's Monday tweet that he would announce his decision on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures declined 0.75 percent to trade at $70.20 per barrel, after earlier falling below the $70 level that it surpassed on Monday for the first time since end-2014. Brent crude futures, meanwhile, lost 0.64 percent to trade at $75.68.

The fall in prices was akin to buy the rumor, "sell the news kind of behavior" for markets, which had initially expected a statement from Trump only later in the week, Nicolas Sopel, a strategist at RHB Research Institute Singapore, told CNBC's "Street Signs."

Trump, who had been due to make a decision by May 12 on the agreement, has criticized the deal, taking issue with so-called "sunset clauses." The 2015 accord has seen international sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear program.

Oil had initially settled higher on Monday as markets weighed the potential impact of renewed U.S. sanctions.

"There's much to play here. We'd reckon there's still several dollars in the price based on a presumption the U.S. will pull out. So if Trump says he's staying, we could swiftly see another $2 to $3 off crude prices," Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.

Gains in the region tracked the firmer close on Wall Street on Monday, with technology shares recording a third consecutive day of gains. Still, U.S. stocks finished the day off their intraday highs on the back of Trump's tweet.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies, were steady at 92.705 at 2:50 p.m. HK/SIN after rising as high as 92.974 on Monday — its strongest level since December. Against the yen, the greenback slipped to trade at 108.90.

The Australian dollar, which dipped below $0.75 in the morning on the back of weak retail sales data, recovered slightly to trade at $0.7513.

On the economic front, investors digested China April trade data, which topped expectations. China reported imports rose 21.5 percent on year and exports increased by 12.9 percent. Both of those figures beat Reuters forecasts of 16 percent import growth and 6.3 percent export growth.