Singapore Markets closed

Asian stocks mixed as US-China trade talks continue

Eustance Huang

Stocks in Asia traded mixed on Tuesday afternoon as investors waited for developments from the second day of U.S.-China trade talks.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose more than 1 percent in afternoon trade while the Topix index gained 0.65 percent.

Shares of Japanese car-maker Nissan recovered from their earlier losses to gain around 0.2 percent amid broadly positive momentum in the auto sector. The company's former Chairman Carlos Ghosn denied wrongdoing in his first public appearance in seven weeks at a Tokyo court, following his arrest in November last year on allegations of financial misconduct.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi was around 0.10 percent lower. Shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics slipped 0.26 percent after the company announced estimated fourth quarter earnings which fell far short of analyst expectations .

Chipmaker SK Hynix , on the other hand, saw strong gains of more than 2 percent. The stock had earlier rose as high as 3 percent during the trading day.

The ASX 200 in Australia recovered from earlier losses to see gains of more than 0.7 percent, with almost all sectors higher.

The heavily-weighted financial subindex advanced 0.69 percent as shares of the country's so-called Big Four banks mostly saw gains; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.12 percent, Westpac advanced more than 1.3 percent and National Australia Bank gained 1 percent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.15 percent, recovering from the day's earlier losses.


US-China trade talks continue

The mainland Chinese markets were trading cautiously by the end of the morning session.

The Shanghai composite declined by 0.2 percent while the Shenzhen composite and Shenzhen component were largely flat.

Over in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 0.27 percent. Shares of Chinese automaker Geely plummeted more than 11 percent after the company forecasted flat sales for 2019.

The U.S. and China are set to kick off their second day of negotiations on trade later today.

China said on Monday that it is willing to resolve its trade disputes with the U.S. on an equal footing , according to Lu Kang, spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry.

One economist expressed caution over the talks.

"It still looks like we're talking more about superficialities ... than some of the fundamental issues," Simon Baptist, global chief economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday morning.

"What really matters is these issues over market access, that's the thing the U.S. firms care about. Having a level playing field when they're competing in China ... against the (state-owned enterprises) and others. And then also, the issues around intellectual property and technology transfer," Baptist said.

"The EIU is still not optimistic about both sides coming to a substantive deal by 1st March," said another EIU analyst, Nick Marro, said in a note. "China would need to significantly re-calibrate its industrial policies to fully meet the US trade team's demands. The limited policy movement that we've seen so far suggests that a game-changing deal remains unlikely."

Over in the U.S., Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday that U.S. tariffs have placed pressure on China's economy and ability to create jobs to avert social unrest .

The U.S. and China slapped a series of punitive tariffs on each other's goods last year, sparking concerns over a global economic slowdown.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index , which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 95.931 after seeing an earlier low of 95.682.

The Japanese yen , widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 108.95 after seeing highs around the 108 handle yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7121 after touching an earlier high of $0.7149.

— Reuters contributed to this report.