Major markets in Asia close lower amid dampened sentiment

  • Major markets in Asia closed lower on Tuesday, although Australia carved out gains.
  • Political turmoil in Italy weighed on sentiment; the euro traded lower.
  • Oil prices were mixed after coming under pressure in the last session.

Major markets in Asia closed lower on Tuesday, with Italian politics and the slide in oil prices in the spotlight.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 0.55 percent, or 122.66 points, to 22,358.43 amid broad-based losses, with strength in the yen weighing on major exporters. The safe-haven yen traded at 108.92 to the dollar at 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN, compared to Monday's close of 109.41.

Electronics stocks finished the day lower, as did steelmakers, with the broader Topix slipping 0.48 percent.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi fell 0.88 percent to 2,457.25 as gains in some technology names failed to lift the broader index. Banks and most manufacturing stocks saw declines.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Elsewhere, the Hang Seng Index slid 0.88 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN, hurt by losses in the heavily weighted financials sector. Shares of insurer AIA, in particular, fell 1.79 percent before the market close. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite gave up early gains to close 0.47 percent lower at 3,120.47 and the smaller Shenzhen composite dropped 1.07 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 was a bright spot, with the index tacking on 0.16 percent to close at 6,013.60 as large cap banks buoyed the market. Energy stocks which had been hit in the last session pared some overnight losses, with Woodside Petroleum edging up by 0.32 percent.

On the whole, MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was lower by 0.58 percent in Asia afternoon trade.

Several markets in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Watching Italy

With U.S. and U.K. markets closed on Monday, investors kept an eye on Italy. Recent political turmoil in the country saw the FTSE MIB fall more than 2 percent in the last session.

The leader of Italy's Five Star Movement party called for the country's president, Sergio Mattarella, to be impeached after the latter chose to veto a pick for economy minister. Mattarella on Monday appointed a former International Monetary Fund economist to the role of interim prime minister, with snap elections expected.

"[I]t's fairly light on the ground in terms of fundamental economic data releases today and so focus will continue to remain on the various geopolitical themes dominating market moves as we return to full liquidity conditions," Nick Twidale, chief operating officer at Rakuten Securities Australia, said in a note.

The euro was under pressure on the back of that uncertainty, trading at $1.1593 at 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN after crossing the $1.17 handle in the last session.

The dampened sentiment also saw U.S. Treasury yields open lower on Tuesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury opened at its lowest levels in six-weeks, Reuters said, and last stood at 2.88 percent.

Investors also digested geopolitical developments involving North Korea after delegations from the U.S. and the hermit state met on Sunday. That came despite U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement last week that he was canceling a planned summit in June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The U.S. has readied sanctions on Pyongyang that could be unveiled soon, but was reportedly postponing the measures as the two countries attempted to resurrect talks.

Oil prices were mixed on Tuesday: U.S. crude futures were down 1.75 percent at $66.69 per barrel and Brent crude futures edged higher by 0.16 percent to trade at $75.42. Prices had dropped on Monday after top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia last week signaled they could raise production.

In individual movers, LG Display jumped 5.23 percent while Japan Display tumbled 7.97 percent. The divergent moves came after a report from South Korean newspaper Electronic Times, citing anonymous sources, that Apple would use organic light-emitting diode screens for new iPhones in the new year, Reuters said.

— CNBC's Sam Meredith contributed to this report.