HONG KONG: Asian markets swung on Tuesday (Apr 11) as investors were on edge over geopolitical tensions, with US-Russian relations strained by last week's Syria strike and sabre-rattling on the Korean peninsula.
While stocks pared the initial plunge that met news of the US missile attack on a Syrian airbase, the brewing crisis is keeping dealers on edge heading into the company earnings season.
President Donald Trump's administration has rankled Moscow by saying it sees no peace in civil war-hit Syria while Bashar al-Assad remains president, while Russia has described the strikes as inflicting "considerable damage" to already "lamentable" bilateral ties.
The US said the strike was in retaliation for a chemical attack on rebel forces that killed dozens.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow this week to discuss the crisis with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov as members of the Group of Seven leading economies are meeting in Italy to hammer out a plan aimed at getting Russia to rein in Assad.
Shanghai gained 0.6 per cent while Sydney added 0.3 per cent and Wellington ticked up slightly.
But Tokyo ended 0.3 per cent lower and Hong Kong was down 0.7 per cent while Singapore gave up 0.2 per cent and Taipei slipped.
In early European trade London slipped 0.2 per cent, Paris shed 0.5 per cent and Frankfurt lost 0.4 per cent.
Toshiba plunged 2.7 per cent on uncertainty about its scheduled release of earnings for April to December.
Some reports say it is considering unveiling the twice-postponed report without auditor approval but the leading business daily Nikkei said it might put it off again.
The stories overshadowed reports that Taiwan's Foxconn had told cash-strapped Toshiba it is prepared to pay US$27 billion for its computer-chip business, the firm's prized possession.
Seoul was 0.4 per cent lower on concerns about North Korea tensions after Pyongyang hit out at the US deployment of a naval strike group to the Korean peninsula, warning it was ready for "war" in a further escalation of tensions.
Trump has previously threatened unilateral action if China - the North's sole major ally - fails to help curb the rogue state's nuclear weapons ambitions.
Trump, whose Syria strike was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea, has asked advisors for a range of options to rein in Pyongyang.
On oil markets both main contracts held up since Friday's attack, which flamed speculation about the impact on exports from the crude-rich Middle East.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate is up almost three per cent since the strike while Brent has added more than two per cent, with the closure of a Libyan oilfield also providing support.
The dollar fell against the yen after US Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen said the central bank would stick to its plans to raise interest rates only gradually.
"It looks difficult for the yen to weaken significantly from here, given Yellen's stance for slow-paced rate hikes," Hiroyasu Iida, the head of the investment research centre at Aizawa Securities, told Bloomberg News.
- Key figures at 0810 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 per cent at 18,747.87 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 per cent at 24,088.46 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 per cent at 3,288.97 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 7,334.02
Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.0585 from US$1.0596 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.2414 from US$1.2412
Dollar/yen: DOWN at ¥110.62 from ¥110.89
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 10 cents at US$52.98 per barrel
Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN seven cents at US$55.91 per barrel
New York - Dow: FLAT at 20,658.02 (close)