Asia markets trade up, Singapore shares down 0.35%

Asia markets trade up, Singapore shares down 0.35%

Asia traded mostly higher on Tuesday but pressures on equity markets from oil's doldrums and weak China data remain.

Evan Lucas, market strategist at spreadbetter IG, said in his morning note that "macro overreach" was still a very real problem. But he added, "fear and pessimism factors versus slowing macro themes are two very different things, which explain the overreach."

Fear factors hanging over markets include China, oil and negative interest rates, according to Lucas.

In Singapore, the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) opened slightly lower, falling 0.35 per cent or 9.13 points to 2,598.77, The Business Times reported.

Japan's Nikkei 225, which surged 7 per cent yesterday, was down as much as 1 per cent in early trade before erasing losses to trade up 0.33 per cent. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was up 0.66 per cent.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 see-sawed between gains of 0.5 per cent and losses of 0.57 per cent before trading flat.

Miners traded mostly positive; Rio Tinto gained 2.37 per cent, BHP Billiton was up 2.19 per cent. Gold miners, however, took a hit, with Newcrest sliding 3.89 per cent and Alacer Gold down 1.12 per cent in early trade.

Though China's trade balance for January, released Monday, was weak, comments from the People's Bank of China (PBOC) governor sent the yuan to its strongest level against the dollar for the year, with the dollar-yuan pair at 6.4943 at yesterday's market close.

In Japan, the dollar-yen pair was lower by 0.16 per cent at 114.38 after market open; last week, the pair had fallen to the 111-mark before recovering somewhat. A stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters because it reduces their overseas profits when the cash is converted to the local currency. Major exporters such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Sony traded between 0.37 and 1.72 per cent down on Tuesday.

Shares in telecommunication and internet giant Softbank surged 14.25 per cent after the company announced a share buy-back. Reuters reported that the buyback - equivalent to a 14 per cent stake - was the biggest ever by the telecoms conglomerate.

Oil prices, which are languishing at multi-year lows, gained overnight, with Brent up 69 cents, or 2.07 per cent, to US$34.05 (S$47.63) a barrel, extending Friday's 11 per cent surge. The gains were made on the back of news that ministers from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar, and Venezuela would hold a previously unpublicized meeting in Doha this week, which led to speculations of a possible global output deal.

But skepticism dominates among market watchers, after talk of possible production cuts from both OPEC and non-OPEC players over recent weeks came to naught.

In Asian hours, US crude futures added gains, rising 4.93 per cent to US$30.89 a barrel, after tacking on 1.09 per cent overnight, when trade closed early due to a public holiday.

Energy plays across the region were mostly higher with Santos gaining 1.55 per cent, Oil Search up by 1.15 per cent, Inpex up by 1.68 per cent, and S-Oil adding 1.89 per cent.

Overnight, US markets were closed for the President's Day public holiday.

On the data front, South Korean central bank is set to announce its monetary policy decision while Taiwan will release its January trade data.

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