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Tokyo stocks up on cheap yen, Australian banks surge

Tokyo stocks were flat Tuesday as investors keep a close eye on corporate earnings reports, while Australian financials were lifted after an inquiry into the sector was considered more lenient than feared.

With most Asian markets closed for Lunar New Year business was thin, though Japanese, Australian and New Zealand traders were given a positive lead from Wall Street, supported by hopes for China-US trade talks and a slower pace of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

By lunch the benchmark Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo inched down 8.39 points, to 20,875.38, though the broader Topix index rose 0.25 percent, or 3.91 points, to 1,585.24.

The Nikkei dipped despite the dollar rising to 110.00 yen in early trade, from 109.92 yen in New York and 109.74 yen in Tokyo on Monday.

Traders may get more cautious in the coming hours ahead of US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address due on Tuesday, analysts said.

In Tokyo share trading Toyota rose 0.75 percent to 6,777 yen ahead of its earnings report later this week, while small car specialist Suzuki was up 0.40 percent at 5,737 yen ahead of its earnings later Tuesday.

Mobile phone carrier SoftBank Corp was flat at 1,353 yen ahead of its earnings report due later Tuesday.

Panasonic dropped 3.48 percent to 1,024 yen after a brokerage house revised down its view of the shares' value and after the electronics firm said its nine months to December net profit declined 13 percent year-on-year.

Wellington was up 0.7 percent and Sydney jumped more than two percent, with Australian banks leading the way after a year-long Royal Commission inquiry into financial services scandals referred more than 20 cases to regulators and called for substantial changes in the sector.

However, it did not call for criminal prosecution, disappointing some observers who had demanded heads of individual senior executives who allowed or perpetuated the repeated misconduct and breaches.

Analysts said much of the report's findings had been expected.

Among the "Big Four" in the country's banking sectors Westpac surged more than seven percent, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank each rose around five percent, while ANZ jumped more than six percent.

"The soft recommendations of the Royal Commission final report is a clear win for the banks," UBS Group AG analysts wrote in a note.

"We do not believe that any of the 76 recommendations by themselves will have a material financial impact on the banks."

-- Bloomberg News contributed to this story --