By Ese Erheriene
Asian stock markets closed mostly higher Monday, as a calm weekend on the geopolitical front and the downgrading of Hurricane Irma saw investors put money back into risk assets.
Havens like gold, U.S. Treasurys and the Japanese yen were lower. North Korea had been expected to conduct a weapons test on Saturday, in observance of the anniversary of the founding of the nation. A year earlier, Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test to mark the occasion.
“A generally positive start is expected for Asian markets as risk sentiment recedes from both North Korea and Hurricane Irma’s end,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Group.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +1.15% gained 1.4% after setting fresh four-month lows on Friday and logging its worst week in seven months. A weaker yen helps to boost the attractiveness of the country’s export-oriented stocks.
Among those, several automakers, including Toyota Motor /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +2.51% and Mitsubishi Motors /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 +5.73% , rose more than 1%, while electronics giants Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +1.02% and Sharp /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +3.68% added 4% and 3.4%, respectively.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.86% closed up 0.7%, driven by a 1.5% jump for Samsung Electronics /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.60% . Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.81% added 1% and Australia’s S&P/200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.23% rose 0.7%.
Broadly speaking, financial stocks led gains in key regional markets, recovering from declines at the end of last week. Japan’s Topix bank subindex rose 0.7%, while shares of Australia’s big four banks rose between 1.4% to 2.2%. HSBC Holdings /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 -1.61% was up 1.3% in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the WSJ Dollar Index /zigman2/quotes/210673925/realtime XX:BUXX +0.08% was up 0.6% against a basket of currencies, after sinking to its lowest level in more than two years on Friday. In particular, the dollar was up 0.5% against the Japanese yen.
Monday’s dollar rise was a “relief rally...after last week’s battering,” Commerzbank analysts said.
Despite the dollar’s strength, the Korean won /zigman2/quotes/210561794/realtime/sampled USDKRW +0.2584% managed to make gains, thanks to the buoyant local equity market. The dollar was down 0.3% against the won at 1126.77, though Samsung Futures forex analyst SeungJi Jeon said he sees support at 1,125 levels due to lingering North Korea risks.
Hurricane Irma's destructive path
After making landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning, Hurricane Irma brought fierce winds and storm surges to southern Florida, before moving westward to the Gulf Coast. Here's what you need to know. Photo: AP