Asia Markets

Stocks in Asia close mixed as investors digest rising oil prices and trade news

Key Points
  • Asian markets were subdued in Tuesday trade.
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that trade talks with China had progress.
  • The U.S. may lift its ban on U.S. companies selling technology to ZTE, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Oil prices edged higher, with investors concerned about Venezuela.

Asian markets were subdued on Tuesday, with Japan and Australia finishing slightly lower while China advanced as oil prices edged higher.

In Japan, the tracked lower by 0.18 percent, or 42.03 points, to close at 22,960.34 despite starting the session with slight gains. The broader Topix slipped 0.23 percent, with most of its 33 subsectors finishing insurers led losses.

Several index heavyweights, however, clung to gains, with Fanuc higher by 0.88 percent and Fast Retailing rising 0.55 percent by the end of the day.

Markets over in China, however, closed in positive territory after getting a boost late in the session. The was little changed, up 0.02 percent at 3,214.53 and the Shenzhen Composite tacked on 0.38 percent to end at 1,855.16.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.7 percent to 6,041.90 amid broad-based losses in most sectors. The country's "Big Four" banks mostly finished the day lower, as did major miners. ANZ fell 1.59 percent, leading losses among its peers, while BHP closed down 0.68 percent.

MSCI's index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, meanwhile, edged higher by 0.15 percent in Asia afternoon trade. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Developments in the trade relationship between the U.S. and China have been in focus for investors. In particular, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the U.S. could lift its ban on U.S. companies selling technology to Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE.

That came after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that the most recent round of bilateral trade talks with China had "made very meaningful progress" and that it was now up to both parties to implement what had been discussed. Mnuchin's Sunday comment that a trade war between the countries was "on hold" had cheered global markets on Monday.

Despite the broader sense of calm in markets now that trade tensions between the world's two largest economies had eased, some still expected the better outlook to be subject to change.

The U.S. "could easily come back with accusations of insufficient change at a moment's notice, probably at a time when it suited them, the mid-term election in November for example," Robert Carnell, chief economist of ING, said in a note.

The mixed session in the region also came on the back of U.S. stocks closing higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing the session above the 25,000 mark for the first time since mid-March.

On the commodities front, oil prices were slightly higher after touching their highest levels in three and a half years overnight. Markets were concerned over U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela following the latter's recent election, the results of which were widely condemned.

U.S. crude futures edged up 0.36 percent to $72.50 per barrel and Brent crude futures added 0.19 percent to trade at $79.37.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of peers, traded at 93.620. Against the yen, the dollar firmed to trade at 111.07 at 2:38 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels around the 110 handle seen last week.

The euro, which earlier got some reprieve after taking a hit on recent uncertainty in Italian politics, slipped to trade at $1.1762.

In corporate news, Sony said it had reached an agreement to acquire Mubadala Investment's stake in EMI Music Publishing for $1.9 billion. Sony shares were down 1.97 percent, paring steeper declines seen earlier.