Asia Cautious Ahead of May Brexit Speech

Markets in Asia finished mixed on Tuesday, as investors remained cautious ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech on Brexit plans due later in the global day, as well as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration stateside at the end of the week.

The Nikkei 225 Index continued its slump, falling 281.71 points, or 1.5%, to 18,813.53,

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong recovered 122.82 points, or 0.5%, to 22,810.97

In her speech, May is expected to outline plans for the United Kingdom's to exit the European Union.

The yen gained ground against the U.S. dollar, strengthening to as high as 113.32, up from levels above 116 in the previous week on safe haven demand. Mid-afternoon local time, the dollar/yen pair traded at 113.46.

The currency's relative strength kept major Japanese exporters under pressure. Shares of automakers Toyota closed down 1.6%,
Nissan declined 1% and Honda was off by 2.7%, while electronics maker Sharp fell 2.7%

Samsung Group shares appeared mostly steady, with Samsung Electronics up 0.8%, Samsung SDI up 0.4% and Samsung C&T down 2%. Samsung Engineering, on the other hand, declined 4%.

Seoul's central district court is said to hold a hearing on Wednesday morning local time to decide whether it will approve an arrest warrant for the head of Samsung Group, Jay Y. Lee, after South Korea's special prosecutors' office accused him of paying millions of dollars in bribe to a friend of President Park Geun-hye

Australia's benchmark closed down, with most sectors finishing lower.

The financial sector was off 1%, with major banks selling off. Shares of ANZ fell 1.3%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia off by 0.9%, Westpac down by 0.9% and the National Australia Bank off by 1.1%

The Australian dollar fetched $0.7519, climbing from levels below $0.7350 last week.

In company news, Australian miner Rio Tinto released its fourth quarter and full-year 2016 production results and provided guidance for 2017.

Iron ore shipments from Pilbara came in at 327.6 million tonnes for 2016, which was in line with guidance, and about 3% higher than 2015 numbers. For 2017, Rio Tinto expects Pilbara shipments to be between 330 and 340 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, mined copper production in 2016 climbed 4% on-year, but came in below expectations.

Shares of Rio Tinto fell 0.8%, erasing earlier gains of more than 1.2%. Other major resources producers also fell, with BHP Billiton down 0.2% and Fortescue down 3.3%.


In Shanghai, the CSI 300 regained 6.91 points, or 0.2%, to 3,326.36

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to speak at Davos later on Tuesday with the remarks to be watched for any comments on recent tensions on trade and geopolitics.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi picked up 7.7 points, or 0.4%, to 2,071.87

The Straits Times Index in Singapore dropped 0.35 points to 3,012.77

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index gained 62.2 points, or 0.7%, to 9,354.53

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 hesitated 11.98 points, or 0.2%, to 7,062.96

Australia's ASX 200 fell 49.02 points, or 0.9%, at 5,699.42