Asian shares were mixed in early Tuesday trade as geopolitical tensions took a backseat following a failed missile test by North Korea at the weekend and as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence continues his tour of Asia.
Pence is due to meet Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on the second leg of his 10-day tour of the region, where he is expected to focus on trade and investment issues.
The vice president was in South Korea on Monday, where he visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Pence noted that U.S. “era of strategic patience” with North Korea was over and that “all options are on the table” when it came to Pyongyang.
“One suspects the concerns in North Korea has further to play out … With this in mind, there will be a strong focus on next week’s meeting between the Russians, the U.S. and the United Nations to discuss Syria and North Korea, although a week seems a long time in markets,” IG Chief Market Strategist Chris Weston said in a Tuesday note.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 0.97 percent in early trade, while the South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index made modest gains of 0.21 percent. The ASX 200 dipped 0.14 percent as Australian markets opened after the long Easter weekend.
In corporate news, shares of HTG Molecular Diagnostics jumped 10 percent after it was reported the molecular profiling company had entered into a master services agreement with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo. Daiichi Sankyo shares were higher by 0.08 percent in early trade.
Meanwhile, Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial upped its offer for payments company MoneyGram International after a rival offer was made by Euronet Worldwide. Ant’s revised offer was higher by 36 percent at $18 per share, totaling $1.2 billion. The board of MoneyGram has reportedly approved the offer but the deal will need to be cleared by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) first.
In currency markets, the dollar traded lower for a third straight session against a basket or rivals at 100.34 at 8:00 am HK/SIN, compared to the 100.4 handle seen yesterday. The dollar/yen traded at 109.18, off the lows around the 108 level seen in the last session. The Australian dollar was stronger at $0.7593, but still off the $.076 handle seen at the beginning of this month.
Movements in the dollar follow U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments to the Financial Times on U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks on the strength of the dollar. “The president was making a factual comment about the strength of the dollar in the short term … There’s a big difference between talk and action,” Mnuchin said.
Brent crude was higher by 0.16 percent at $55.45 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude inched up 0.09 percent to trade at $52.70. Oil prices fell by 1 percent in the previous session due to reports of increased U.S. shale production and after thin trade during the Easter weekend.
On the economic front, China will be reporting March home prices at 9:30 am HK/SIN. The Reserve Bank of Australia is set to release the minutes of its April monetary policy meeting at the same time.
Shares posted a higher finish on Wall Street, with the major U.S. indexes all up by more than 0.8 percent. Investors are expected to eye earnings season in the U.S., with Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, IBM and Johnson & Johnson among the big names reporting this week.