Asia report: Most markets fall on fresh North Korea concerns
Most markets in Asia were on the back foot at the end of Tuesday’s sessions, as traders digested fresh uncertainty over North Korea.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.44% at 22,717.23, as the yen strengthened 0.15% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 110.18.
The broader Topix was 0.27% lower in Tokyo, with banks, miners and oil plays all in the red.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite lost 0.7% to 3,169.71, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite was off 0.41% to 1,832.27.
Banks and large insurers led the financial sector lower in the People’s Republic, with China Pacific Insurance and New China Life Insurance losing 4.03% and 3.83% respectively.
South Korea’s Kospi eked out gains of 0.05% to 2,459.82, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong slipped 0.13% to 31,110.20.
It was technology behemoth Samsung Electronics that led gains in Seoul, offsetting losses primarily among manufacturers and oil producers.
Geopolitics on the Korean peninsula was back on the agenda for many investors in the region, after Pyongyang said it was reconsidering the landmark upcoming meeting with the US if Washington was insistent on it giving up its nuclear arms.
That came after it earlier dropped plans for meetings with South Korea, scheduled for Wednesday, after joint military drills between Seoul and US forces went ahead.
North Korea inferred the drills were an unwelcome sign of aggression from South Korea and Washington at a time of recently-improved relations.
Oil prices were lower, with Brent crude last down 0.6% at $77.96 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate falling 0.11% to $71.23.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.15% at 6,107.00, led higher by the energy sector and the big four banks on the hefty financials subindex.
Department store chain Myer surged 16%, after it reported a 2.7% fall in third quarter sales - better than the 3.6% decline seen in the first half of its financial year.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 was down 1.8%, led lower by A2 Milk, which plunged 13.7%.
The specialist infant food and dairy products exporter released its full-year revenue expectations, saying it anticipated turnover of between NZD 900m and 920m.
That would fall short of recent market expectations, with forecasts from Thomson Reuters reaching NZD 940m.
A2’s performance dragged down its supply partner Synlait Milk, which was down 4.2%.
Both of the down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last ahead 0.13% at AUD 1.3366 and the Kiwi advancing 0.19% to NZD 1.4546.