Asia markets trade higher as investors wait on crucial Brexit vote

  • Asia Pacific markets mostly traded higher Tuesday despite lingering concerns over an economic slowdown in China, which dampened sentiment at the start of the week.
  • Gains in Asia came despite declines on Wall Street overnight as the U.S. corporate earnings season kicks off.
  • The British pound was a focus for investors as lawmakers were set to vote on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal to leave the European Union.

Asia Pacific markets mostly traded higher Tuesday despite lingering concerns over an economic slowdown in China, which dampened sentiment at the start of the week after China released trade data.

South Korea's Kospi added 32.66 points, or 1.58 percent, to 2,097.18 while the Kosdaq gained 7.30 points, or 1.07 percent, to 690.39.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 added 195.59 points, or 0.96 percent, to 20,555.29 after resuming trade on Tuesday — the Japanese market was closed Monday for a public holiday.

Greater China markets gained: Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.82 percent in late-afternoon trade, while mainland Chinese markets rose as the Shanghai composite added 34.58 points, or 1.36 percent, to 2,570.34.

Major indexes in Singapore and India also rose.

Australia's ASX 200 was up 41.20 points, or 0.71 percent, at 5,814.60 as the heavily-weighted financial subindex added 0.66 percent while the energy and materials sectors also posted gains.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7216 as of 3:42 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from an earlier low of $0.7188.

Asia's gains came despite declines on Wall Street overnight as the U.S. corporate earnings season kicked off. Still, U.S. futures also pointed to a positive open Tuesday.

"Risk is under modest downward pressure after yesterday's disappointing December Chinese export data and confirmation of weak euro area industrial production fuelled concerns that a synchronised global manufacturing down-swing is underway and possibly intensifying," analysts at ANZ Research wrote in a Tuesday morning note.

The analysts added that resolving trade uncertainty is "fundamental" to stabilizing the outlook, referring to an ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

In the currency market, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, traded at 95.563. The Japanese yen, considered a safe-haven asset, fetched 108.61 to the dollar.

The British pound traded at $1.2885 as of 3:46 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from levels below $1.2740 in the previous week. Sterling will be a focus for investors as lawmakers vote on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal to leave the European Union.

The vote is widely expected to be defeated in parliament Tuesday, but could potentially still trigger a violent market reaction, according to some analysts.

"Today's vote is considered a 'buy the rumour, sell the fact' play for the pound especially if the Brexit agreement is defeated by more than 100 votes," analysts at Singapore's DBS Group Research wrote. "It is still too early to take off the risk for the pound to fall to its post-referendum low near 1.20 this year."

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