Asia shares mixed as Wall Street rally takes breather

TOKYO (AP) – Share prices were mostly higher yesterday in Asia after the Wall Street rally took a breather overnight. Investors are awaiting trade data from China this week and keeping an eye on geopolitical risks centred on North Korea.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.6 per cent to 20,823.51 and South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.7 per cent to 2,435.52 after a weeklong holiday. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong climbed 0.5 per cent to 28,469.90. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 was almost unchanged at 5,738.10 and the Shanghai Composite index edged up less than 0.1 per cent to 3,375.89. India’s Sensex gained 0.3 per cent to 31,944.68 while shares in Southeast Asia were mostly lower.

Losses for health care companies and banks left US stocks lower Monday and industrial conglomerate General Electric skidded after announcing more changes in its leadership. Stocks have rallied recently on hopes that tax cuts proposed by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans will boost corporate profits.

But President Donald Trump sparred over the weekend with Senator Bob Corker, a retiring Republican who has a reputation as a budget hawk. Republicans have a narrow majority and losing just a few votes could derail a bill. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 0.2 per cent to 2,544.73. The Dow Jones industrial average shed less than 0.1 per cent to 22,761.07 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 per cent to 6,579.73, which ended a nine-day winning streak.

People stand in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. – AP

“The low volume and moderate movements in US markets certainly provided little inspiration for markets in the region as Asian bourses largely shrugged off the soft US performance,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “With a light data day expected ahead, Asian markets may find moderate movements with eyes ahead to releases in the US and China’s loans and trade updates.”

Concerns that North Korea might choose the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Kim Jong-Il’s acceptance of the title of general secretary of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea for another missile test abated somewhat. Thousands of people, mostly students, packed Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang to dance and watch fireworks to mark the anniversary on Sunday night.

North Korean state media announced that current leader Kim Jong-Un had repeated the country’s defiance of the US and reiterated his determination to push ahead with its nuclear programme in a meeting with other top leaders on Saturday. Benchmark US crude added three cents to $49.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 29 cents to $49.58 a barrel on Monday as Tropical Storm Nate moved away from the Gulf Coast, where much of US crude is drilled and processed. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained eight cents to $55.87 per barrel. It added 17 cents to $55.79 a barrel in London.