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North Korea, Tropical Storm Harvey, oil and gas and currencies in focus

Stocks in Asia had closed down on Tuesday following a North Korea ballistic missile launch earlier in the day. Still, most major indexes closed above the lows they touched earlier in the session, with risk aversion later fading further during the U.S. trading session.

Equities on Wall Street began the session lower, but shook off North Korea-related jitters to close higher. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.26 percent, or 56.97 points, to close at 21,865.37.

“The risk off sentiment that overshadowed markets after the launch of yet another missile from North Korea didn’t even last 24 hours,” said National Australia Bank Director of Economics David de Garis in a morning note.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “all options” were on the table when it came to North Korea. Some market watchers, however, took the statement to be a reassuring development compared to Trump’s past responses over tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Markets could also digest news out of Washington concerning the Trump administration’s tax reform proposal. While few specifics are expected, but a Wednesday speech is likely to touch on the matter of removing deductions that tend to benefit those with higher incomes, according to a Politico report.

On the energy front, at least 19 percent of refining capacity in the U.S. was shut down due to weather conditions caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, a now-downgraded hurricane. While some refiners in Corpus Christi were looking to begin operations in coming days, flooding in Houston would likely keep other refiners shut for the week, analysts said.

U.S. gasoline futures surged 2.25 percent to trade at $1.8234 a gallon following refinery closures stateside. Gasoline futures had settled up 4 percent overnight. Meanwhile, Brent crude futures slid 0.23 percent to trade at $51.88 a barrel and U.S. crude futures lost 0.37 percent to trade at $46.27.

In corporate news, Toshiba could miss an Aug. 31 deadline set by itself to sell its memory chip unit, Reuters reported. The latest stumbling block was a disagreement between parties over the size of Western Digital’s share in the business, Reuters added. Western Digital is part of a consortium, including Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, reportedly offering just below 2 trillion yen for Toshiba’s memory business. Toshiba shares were down 1.57 percent despite most Japanese tech stocks making gains early in the session.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics made a bid for Austrian headlight maker ZKW Group, Reuters said on Tuesday citing Korea Economic Daily. A preferred bidder will reportedly be chosen in September, Reuters added. LG Electronics stock was up 2.96 percent in early trade.

Market movers during the session could include several Hong Kong-listed companies that released half-year earnings after the market close on Tuesday. China Southern Airlines first-half profit fell 11 percent while China Eastern Airlines reported first-half profit jumped 34 percent.

In currencies, the dollar was mostly flat against a basket of currencies at 92.341 at 8:18 a.m. HK/SIN, compared to Tuesday’s close of 92.35. The dollar index had fallen as low as 91.621 in the overnight session.

The greenback also recovered from a 4-1/2-month low against the Japanese currency hit after North Korea’s Tuesday missile launch. The dollar last fetched 109.84 yen, firmly above the lows of 108.82 yen plumbed earlier this week.

That followed the release of Japan retail sales for the month of July, which increased 1.9 percent compared to one year ago, Reuters reported. The figure was above the 1 percent rise forecast, Reuters added.

Meanwhile, the euro edged down to trade at $1.1973 after breaking the $1.20 level overnight.

Ahead, investors also awaited ADP employment numbers and revised second-quarter U.S. GDP data due during U.S. hours.

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