TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly higher on Tuesday with little major news to drive trading. Japan's benchmark edged lower, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose as China's finance minister expressed confidence over the government's ability to handle rising levels of debt.
KEEPING SCORE: The Nikkei 225 stock index in Tokyo edged 0.2 per cent lower to 19,345.49 but most other indexes gained. The Hang Seng gained 0.3 per cent to 23,673.80 and the Shanghai Composite index was flat at 3,234.76. Australia's S&P ASX 200 climbed 0.2 per cent to 5,755.10 and South Korea's Kospi was up 0.5 per cent to 2,091.14. Shares in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were higher.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished lower Monday for the second time in the last three trading days, with losses in banks, investment firms and insurance companies. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.3 per cent to 2,375.31, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 0.2 per cent to 20,954.34 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.4 per cent to 5,849.17. Some analysts have turned cautious after the rapid gains of recent months.
TRUMP WATCH: Without any major financial news to drive trading, investors are watching for the latest developments from the U.S. Federal Reserve and U.S. President Donald Trump. Overnight, Trump's administration released a revised version of border restrictions for travellers from majority-Muslim countries.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "'Trump on, Trump off' (TOTO) is the new 'risk on, risk off,'" Chris Weston of IG said in a commentary. Trump's revised travel restrictions for travellers from majority-Muslim countries would have limited impact in Asia, since none of the countries directly affected are in the region. "Again, this story is not really one for markets to be concerned with, but it highlights the lack of news focus in the session."
CHINA CONFIDENCE: China's financial minister, Xiao Jie, told reporters risks from financing were manageable. "China's government debt risks are generally within control," the official Xinhua News Agency cited Xiao as saying on the sidelines of the annual session of the national legislature. He said total net debt amounted to 27.33 trillion yuan (about $3.96 trillion dollars) or about 36.7 per cent of the country's GDP.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 6 cents to $53.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 13 cents on Monday to $53.20 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 9 cents to $55.92 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar was nearly unchanged at 113.98 yen. The euro rose to $1.0588 from $1.0582.
Elaine Kurtenbach, The Associated Press