Asia stock markets open mixed, Singapore shares down 0.05%

Asia stock markets open mixed, Singapore shares down 0.05%

Major Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday morning, following a mild finish from US equities overnight.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index opened at 2,822.09, down 0.05 per cent or 1.42 points, according to The Straits Times.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 extended Monday's losing streak by trading down 0.37 percent. Before market open, Reuters reported revised government data showed the economy shrank at an annualized 1.1 percent in the final quarter of 2015. This was revised up from a preliminary reading of a 1.4 percent contraction.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was flat at 1,958.15.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.46 percent in early trade, with the financials sector up 0.35 percent, the energy sector gaining 1.18 percent and materials up by 0.88 percent.

"Huge moves in the commodities space overnight have not translated well into the equities markets, striking a note of caution that this current rally may be running out of steam," said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG, in his morning note.

"The 19 percent jump in iron ore overnight - the biggest ever one-day increase - looks far more like a warning signal than a bullish market turn," said Nicholson.

Iron ore prices rose overnight from US$52.40 (S$72.46) to US$62.60 a tonne.

Miners in Australia were mostly up, with Rio Tinto adding 1.12 percent and BHP Billiton higher by 1.62 percent.

But iron ore producer Fortescue saw its shares slip 7.8 percent, after surging nearly 24 percent Monday. The company also announced prior to the market open that it was in talks with Vale to work together to blend iron ore to meet the demands of its customers. The announcement said there was also a possibility that could see the Brazilian miner take a minority stake in Fortescue.

The Australian dollar was nearly flat against the US dollar in morning trade, with the pair trading at 0.7459 as of 8:03 a.m. HK/SIN time.

Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor was down 3.64 percent in early trade after the Nikkei reported that the company will issue 200 billion yen in zero-coupon convertible bonds and use most of the proceeds toward widening its operations in India.

Traders are likely to digest China data released Monday after local markets closed showing foreign currency reserves on the mainland fell to $3.2 trillion at the end of February, dropping from $3.23 trillion the previous month, marking the fourth straight month of declines, although the pace of outflows slowed substantially. The February figure was in line with analysts' expectations shown in a Reuters poll.

"Clearly, Chinese reserve valuations benefited from the fall in the US dollar in February, and there seems to be little evidence that expectations for the yuan to devalue have eased," said Nicholson.

Oil prices jumped overnight, with the global benchmark Brent hitting a 2016 peak above $40 a barrel; Brent futures settled up US$2.12 at US$40.84. US crude futures finished up US$1.98 at $37.90 a barrel.

Major US indexes closed mixed; Dow Jones industrial average up 0.4 percent, S&P 500 finishing flat and the Nasdaq composite ended down 0.19 percent, weighed by technology stocks.

On the data front, Japan will release its revised gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the fourth quarter of 2015, while China's February trade figures are also due.

- Nyshka Chandran and Reuters contributed to this report.

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