Asian stocks drift slightly higher amid fading geopolitical fears

Asian markets were steady in early Tuesday trade as recent concerns about geopolitics faded. The overnight pick up in investor confidence also saw the dollar slip against its peers.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 firmed slightly, with the index higher by 0.1 percent. The broader Topix was little changed and last edging lower by 0.01 percent, as utilities recorded gains and financials slid for the most part.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi edged higher by 0.1 percent. Brokerages and automakers climbed in early trade.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 drifted higher by 0.21 percent as all sectors but telecommunications traded in the green.

Gains in the region came after U.S. stocks closed higher in the last session as investors shifted their attention from geopolitical tensions to strong corporate earnings releases.

Expectations for earnings season stateside are high, with first-quarter results projected to rise 18.6 percent compared to one year ago, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

U.S. markets had advanced in the previous session despite last week’s U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria in response to a likely chemical attack there earlier in April, with investors apparently calmed by top defense officials’ characterization of the strikes as a “one time shot.”

Asian markets, meanwhile, had closed mixed on Monday as investors digested the missile strikes in Syria, with the Nikkei 225 closing higher by 0.26 percent. European stocks closed in the red amid the geopolitical tensions, with the pan-European STOXX 600 slipping 0.39 percent.

In corporate news, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a denial of export privileges against China’s ZTE, a telecommunications equipment company. The ban stops U.S. companies from selling to ZTE for seven years, Reuters reported, and comes after the Chinese firm failed to adhere to an agreement with the U.S. government after it illegally shipped equipment to Iran and North Korea, U.S. officials said.

Meanwhile, the dollar eased against a basket of currencies as investor confidence firmed, with the dollar index last at 89.408.

The greenback also extended losses against the yen. The dollar traded at 106.99 at 8:01 a.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels above the 107 level seen in the previous session.

On the commodities front, oil prices were moderately higher after Monday’s fall. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures added 0.36 percent to trade at $66.46 per barrel and Brent crude futures edged up 0.31 percent to $71.64.

Here’s the economic calendar for Tuesday (all times in HK/SIN):

  • 8:30 a.m.: Singapore non-oil exports
  • 10:00 a.m.: China first-quarter GDP
  • 10:00 a.m.: China industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales

Minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia are also due during the day.

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