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Asia markets trade mostly higher as investors look ahead to US-China trade talks this week

Saheli Roy Choudhury

Chinese markets led gains on Tuesday in a mostly positive trading session across Asia, extending their upward climb from the previous day after the banking regulator urged institutions to boost lending in the country.

The Shanghai composite rose 35.36 points, or 1.31 percent, to 2,733.82 and the Shenzhen composite added 20.20 points, or 1.39 percent, to 1,471.27.

"Chinese equities rebounded after the banking regulator (called) for banks to boost lending in order to support infrastructure projects and exporters," Huani Zhu, an economist from Mizuho Bank, wrote in a morning note. "This suggests that the government is likely to utilize various policy tools to cushion any downside risk to growth."

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission posted a statement on its website that called for institutions to raise the proportion of medium and long-term loans so that borrowers are not strained at the end of the month or quarter, reports said.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 0.37 percent at 3:15 p.m. HK/SIN.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed near flat at 22,219.73 while the Topix index ended fell 6.73 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,685.42.

South Korea's Kospi rose 22.18 points, or 0.99 percent, to 2,270.06 with major tech names rising. Shares of Samsung Electronics closed up 2.17 percent, chip-maker SK Hynix added 4.95 percent and LG Electronics rose 1.66 percent. But major carmaker Hyundai Motor fell 1.57 percent and the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation declined 1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, stock market operator Korea Exchange is reportedly looking into Merrill Lynch's Seoul operation over alleged unfair stock trades.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 declined 60.6 points, or 0.96 percent, to close at 6,284.4, with most sectors falling. The energy sector was down 1.79 percent, materials was lower by 1.26 percent and the heavily weighted financials subindex fell 1.33 percent. Major banking and mining stocks were down.

The Australian dollar traded at $0.7351 at 2:57 p.m. HK/SIN, following the release of the August policy meeting minutes by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The central bank said that since progress on unemployment and inflation was set to be gradual, there was "no strong case" to adjust the monetary policy in the near term.

Earlier this month, RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5 percent and said that business conditions in the economy remained positive while non-mining business investment was increasing. But the bank cautioned against uncertainty in the outlook for household consumption amid high debt levels.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also survived a leadership challenge for the Liberal Party by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, according to reports. Turnbull won by 48 votes to Dutton's 35.

In company news, global mining giant BHP announced earnings for the year ended Jun. 30. The miner said its underlying profit rose 33 percent from $6.73 billion to $8.93 billion for the fiscal year. But that number still missed an estimate of $9.27 billion that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S predicted.

"Across our dramatically simplified portfolio of tier one assets, we see this year's strong momentum carried into the medium term," Andrew Mackenzie, CEO of BHP, said in a statement.

BHP shares closed down 1.87 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar index , which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, traded at 95.596 at 3:22 p.m. HK/SIN after declining from levels near 97.00 in the previous week.

The index "recorded its fourth consecutive daily decline against a backdrop of improved risk appetite, lower (U.S. Treasury) yields and news that President [Donald] Trump had expressed disappointment with recent Fed hikes," Rodrigo Catril, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at the National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

In an interview with Reuters , Trump said he disagreed with the Federal Reserve's decision to raise interest rates, and he said the Fed should do "what's good for the country."

Investors will be looking forward to a meeting between U.S. and Chinese representatives this week. Reports said that delegations from Beijing are set to meet with U.S. officials on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 to try and find ways to resolve an escalating tariff war between the world's two largest economies. But market commentators said that they expect no major outcomes from this week's meeting.

Among other currency pairs, the Japanese yen traded at 110.08 to the dollar at 2:59 p.m. HK/SIN, easing from an earlier high of 109.76. Meanwhile, the euro traded at $1.1514, gaining from earlier lows of $1.1477.

Oil prices were mixed during Asian trading hours with global benchmark Brent gaining 0.1 percent to $72.28 a barrel at 3:23 p.m. HK/SIN while U.S. crude advanced 0.41 percent to $66.7.

— Reuters contributed to this report.