Asia stocks, dollar subdued after French relief, South Korea vote eyed
Asian stock markets edged down on Tuesday following a flat close on Wall Street, as investors searched for the next catalyst following France's presidential election, while oil inched higher on expectations OPEC supply cuts will be extended.
Financial spreadbetters expect Britain's FTSE 100 (FTSE), Germany's DAX (GDAXI) and France's CAC 40 (FCHI) to all open flat.
The South Korean stock market, which finished at a record high on Monday, is closed for Tuesday's presidential election.
Liberal Moon Jae-in is widely expected to win the presidency, following months of leadership vacuum after former President Park Geun-hye was removed on charges of bribery and abuse of power.
The polls opened at 6 a.m. (2100 GMT on Monday) and will close at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT). The winner is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday after the Election Commission releases the official result.
Allies and neighbors are closely watching the election amid escalating tensions over North Korea's accelerating development of weapons since it conducted its fourth nuclear test in January last year. It conducted a fifth test in September and is believed ready for another.
North Korea would be keen to see a Moon victory. Its official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary on Monday the time had come to put confrontation behind the Koreas by ending conservative rule in the South.
"South Korean markets had not registered significant risk-off sentiment similar to other economies pre-elections, and this is no surprise," Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore, wrote in a note.
"The largely similar stance on policies by the Presidential candidates provides little chance of surprise as compared to last week's French election. Meanwhile, the filling of the political vacuum could go a long way to benefitting the economy."
The Korean won weakened 0.25 percent on Tuesday, with the dollar buying 1,135.52 won.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (MIAPJ0000PUS) slipped 0.2 percent on Tuesday.
Japan's Nikkei (N225) was slightly lower.
China's CSI 300 index (CSI300) retreated 0.3 percent in its sixth straight session of losses amid concerns over tighter financial regulations. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (HSI) reversed earlier losses to trade up 0.35 percent.
Taiwan stocks (TWII) pulled back to trade 0.25 percent lower on profit taking after earlier surpassing the 10,000-point mark to hit a two-year high.
The MSCI World index (MIWD00000PUS), which touched a record high overnight, dropped about 0.1 percent.
The dollar was flat at 113.285 yen , retaining most of Monday's 0.4 percent gain.
The dollar index (DXY) was also steady at 99.11.
The euro was steady at $1.0927 after tumbling 0.7 percent on Monday.
"The euro's retreat was driven solely by profit-taking. I think it is going to regain momentum over time," said Yukio Ishizuki, senior currency analyst at Daiwa Securities.
French stocks (FCHI) slumped 0.9 percent overnight, their biggest one-day loss in almost three weeks, as investors took profits following strong gains in the run-up to Sunday's vote that saw the market favorite, centrist Emmanuel Macron, elected president.
Germany's DAX (GDAXI) closed 0.2 percent lower, while Britain's FTSE (FTSE) was marginally higher.
On Wall Street, all three major indexes closed flat, holding near recent all-time highs. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) closed at 9.77, its lowest since December 1993.
In commodities, oil market sentiment swung between optimism over statements from major oil-producing countries that supply cuts could be extended into 2018 and lingering concerns over slowing demand and a rise in U.S. crude output.
U.S. crude (CLc1) inched up 0.1 percent to $46.47 a barrel.
Global benchmark Brent (LCOc1) also rose 0.1 percent to $49.39.
Copper remained close to the four-month low touched on Monday after data showed a sharp drop on imports into China, the world's biggest consumer.
London copper slipped 0.1 percent to $5,481.50 a tonne on Tuesday, after falling to as low as $5,462.50 on Monday.
Gold recovered from a seven-week trough touched on Monday. Spot gold rose about 0.1 percent to $1,226.60 an ounce.