By Kenan Machado
Equity markets in Asia closed mixed on Tuesday, as traders assessed fresh threats from North Korea and weakness among key technology stocks, though Hong Kong stocks erased early losses as Chinese markets outperformed.
North Korea’s foreign minister warned overnight that his country would shoot down U.S. warplanes even if they were outside the nation’s airspace, in an escalation of the threat of a military confrontation.
In the U.S., the White House dismissed assertions about war and the Pentagon brushed off the military threat.
In South Korea, the Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.28% ended 0.3% lower, extending its losing run into a sixth straight day. Samsung Electronics /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -2.42% dropped 3.7%% and Korean Air Lines /zigman2/quotes/200075101/delayed KR:003490 +2.23% fell 1.1%.
“The markets are cautious but yet to fully price in a flare up in military conflict,” said Ivan Ip, a stock strategist at UOB Group. Trading sentiment was already bearish, given the Federal Reserve’s plans to taper its balance sheet which should lead to tighter liquidity, he said.
Following an overnight slide in U.S. internet stocks, including Chinese firms like Baidu /zigman2/quotes/209050136/composite BIDU -1.11% and Alibaba Group Holding /zigman2/quotes/201948298/composite BABA -0.27% , Hong Kong heavyweight Tencent Holdings /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -0.50% ended Tuesday’s session 1.2% lower. The Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.73% , however, ended 0.1% higher.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed Chinese developers and Apple suppliers — which were down on Monday — remained under pressure. AAC Technologies Holdings /zigman2/quotes/201441510/delayed HK:2018 -2.81% lost 1.1%, while China Overseas Land & Investment /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 +0.56% gave up 1%.
Chinese developers were weaker as local governments there rolled out new measures to cool the frothy property market.
“Given the strong performance of the [property] sector, I don’t think it’s a surprise that some investors moved to lock in some profits, especially in light of recent policy measures,” said David Millhouse, head of research for China at Forsyth Barr Asia.
Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.79% finished 0.3% lower, dragged lower by overnight yen buying. The U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561418/realtime/sampled JPYUSD -0.1938% fell to as low as ¥111.50, compared with around ¥112.22 at the end of Tokyo equity trading on Monday.
Tech stocks in Japan also faced selling pressure, with Sony /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -1.57% and Nintendo down 2% and 1.9%, respectively.
Energy stocks in the region gained on the overnight return to bull-market territory for U.S. oil prices.
In Japan, Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -2.91% closed 1.7% higher and Japan Petroleum Exploration /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 -1.69% put on 3.2%. Australia’s Oil Search /zigman2/quotes/204702973/delayed AU:OSH -2.66% added 2.8%, Santos /zigman2/quotes/207349564/delayed AU:STO -3.23% added 3.5% and Woodside Petroleum /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL -2.96% advanced 2.9%.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -2.31% ended 0.2% lower at 5,671.00.