Asian stocks edge higher and dollar firms; Trump-Kim summit in the spotlight

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Most major Asian markets closed higher on Tuesday as a landmark meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took place in Singapore and ahead of central bank meetings in the coming days.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.33 percent, or 74.31 points, to close at 22,878.35, but was off a session high of 23,011.57 touched in the morning. The food, retailer and land transport subindexes were among the best-performing sectors, all rising more than 1 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.05 percent to close at 2,468.83 in what was a choppy session, with the index trading both above and below the flat line through the day.

Other markets in the region were little changed, with Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 tacking on 0.15 percent to end at 6,054.40. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.42 percent by 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN, with the energy and service sectors leading gains.

On the mainland, the benchmark Shanghai composite gained 0.91 percent to finish at 3,080.55 and the smaller Shenzhen composite rose by more than 1 percent.

Markets in Southeast Asia were slightly less buoyant, with Vietnamese stocks down 1.85 percent by 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN following eight straight sessions of gains. Singapore’s benchmark Straits Times Index slipped 0.13 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN.

MSCI’s index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan edged up by 0.18 percent in Asia afternoon trade after trading in negative territory in the morning.

The high-profile Trump-Kim summit — the first meeting between sitting leaders of both countries — took center stage during the day, although analysts have said they expected little direct impact from the event on the markets.

No major breakthroughs had been expected from the meeting, which culminated in both leaders signing an statement that pledged a lasting “peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Tuesday’s summit comes as an about face for relations between the U.S. after an elevation in geopolitical tensions last year following multiple missile launches by the North.

“Aside from the photo opportunities that today brings, from a financial markets perspective, today ranks as a ‘meh,'” Robert Carnell, Asia Pacific head of research at ING, said in a morning note. He added that developments in the trade arena “is a far, far bigger existential global threat.”

The dollar was firmer on Tuesday despite the lack of certainty over what was achieved. The greenback edged up almost 0.3 percent against the safe-haven yen to trade at 110.33 at 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN as the meeting began. The dollar had earlier firmed as much as 110.49.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of peers, strengthened slightly to 93.746.

Markets’ overall positive tone came despite that uncertainty in anticipation of several key events expected this week.

“[The risk-on tone] may have been a function of low volumes ahead of the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank this week, as asset allocators are unlikely to make strategic investment decisions until those events and the Singapore summit are out of the way,” ANZ analysts said in a morning note.

Ahead, the Fed begins its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, with markets expecting a quarter-point interest rate hike announcement on Wednesday. The ECB and Bank of Japan hold meetings in the second half of the week.

U.S. stocks finished the last session in positive territory despite recent trade concerns after last week’s tense G-7 summit, which Trump had attended before arriving in Singapore on Sunday. Trump had withdrawn his support to endorse the joint G-7 communique and criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trump continued to fan trade tensions in a series of tweets critical of traditional allies of the U.S. on Monday during Asia business hours.

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