SINGAPORE 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.
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 KRW= 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 JPY=D4, retaining most of Monday’s 0.4 percent gain.
The dollar index .DXY was also steady at 99.11.
The euro EUR=EBS 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.
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 CMCU3 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 XAU= rose about 0.1 percent to $1,226.60 an ounce.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Eric Meijer and Sam Holmes)