Asia Markets: Weaker yen boosts Nikkei, as other Asian markets mixed

Asia-Pacific stock markets struggled for direction early Tuesday as tech continued to lean on indexes in South Korea and Taiwan, but a weaker yen boosted Japanese shares.

The region got little guidance from U.S. equities, which barely moved Monday in the slowest trading day of the year. Investors widely remain on the sidelines as quarterly results start to appear globally and as issues such as U.S.-China trade tensions and Korean Peninsula peace continue to play out.

Meanwhile, benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields have hit four-year highs in recent days and are just below 3%. A run-up in yields to start 2018 briefly sent global equities skidding.

“One bright spot,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Group, is that higher yields tend to mean a stronger dollar, especially versus the yen.

A weaker yen is typically good for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei NIK, +0.67%   was the best performer early Tuesday, rising 0.5% as the U.S. dollar JPYUSD, -0.039542%   is about ¥108.85 — a full yen higher than yesterday’s Tokyo stock-market close. In late New York trading Monday, the pair was at a 2½-month high on that basis.

The dollar broadly had its best day since early February on Monday, putting the WSJ Dollar Index at its highest level since early January.

Taiwan’s stock index continued to underperform, with the Taiex Y9999, -0.72%   falling 1.4%. Apple-product assembler Hon Hai 2317, -1.69%   slid 3%.

Korea’s Kospi SEU, -0.14%   fell 0.7% as SK Hynix 000660, -2.37%   skidded 3.8% after posting first-quarter earnings growth that wasn’t as robust as hoped. It also warned about soft near-term smartphone demand, following peer Taiwan Semiconductor’s 2330, +0.22%   lead last week. Samsung Electronics 005930, -2.20%  , which makes both chips and smartphones, fell nearly 3%.

However, indexes in China SHCOMP, +1.88%   and Hong Kong HSI, +1.14%  , which have been lagging of late, started Tuesday’s trading with roughly 0.5% gains.

And Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.48%   added 0.3%, putting it on course for its seventh gain in eight days. Australian consumer confidence rose 2.1% last week to its best level since early March, according to a survey by ANZ-Roy Morgan, adding it was likely helped by the recent local stock strength.

In commodities, oil futures continued Monday afternoon’s U.S. rebound in Asian trading, with prices at fresh 3½-year highs. Prices were recently up 0.3%.

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