Asia in the green with Comey's FBI dismissal, new South Korean president in focus
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 0.45 percent while the Kospi edged up by 0.24 percent.
Equities in Asia were in the green on Wednesday as investors digest the dramatic dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in the US and follow the inauguration of liberal candidate Moon Jae-in after his win in the South Korean presidential election.
Official results reflected that Moon, a candidate from the Democratic Party of Korea, had won 41.1 percent of the vote, according to Reuters. Moon will take on the presidency after the ouster of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was removed from office on corruption charges.
Political developments in the U.S. are also likely to weigh. FBI Director James Comey was fired by U.S. President Donald Trump on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The reason for the dismissal cited was to mend "public trust and confidence" in the FBI.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 0.45 percent while the Kospi edged up by 0.24 percent. The ASX 200 was reversed earlier losses to gain 0.34 percent as investors in digested the release of the federal budget yesterday after the market close.
Markets in greater China were also in the green, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index up 0.42 percent. The Shanghai Composite was marginally higher, trading higher by 0.04 percent, while the Shenzhen Composite added 0.195 percent.
Markets in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia were closed for the Vesak Day public holiday.
In currency news, the dollar weakened against a basket of rivals after three consecutive sessions of gains to trade at 99.422. The move lower came after Trump's surprise dismissal of FBI Director Comey. The dollar also softened against the yen, trading at 113.88 at 9:32 am HK/SIN. Dollar/yen breached the 114 level earlier in the session.
The Aussie dollar strengthened slightly against the dollar to trade at USD 0.7355, off levels around USD 0.74 seen last week.
"With iron ore, (Australia's) chief export, having shed an astonishing 47.3 percent over 36 sessions then the Australian dollar has done well to remain above USD 0.73 until now," ThinkMarkets Senior Market Analyst Matt Simpson said in a note.
With the Federal Reserve likely to raise interest rates in June, the Aussie could break below USD 0.70 if traders realize a third rate hike is on the cards, Simpson told CNBC.
The Australian government forecast an AUSD 7.4 billion (USD 5.4 billion) surplus for fiscal year 2020/21 and announced it would be raising taxes on banks in its bid to "re-set" the Australian budget yesterday.
Shares of major Australian banks fell more than 1 percent in early trade following the news of the bank levy but later stabilized. Westpac was down 0.64 percent, Commonwealth Bank was off 0.6 percent and National Australia Bank was 0.48 percent lower.
Meanwhile, oil prices edged up after falling 1.2 percent in the previous session. Brent futures added 0.64 percent to trade at USD 49.03 a barrel and US crude was 0.74 percent higher at USD 46.22.
In economic news, China CPI data for the month of April rose 1.2 percent on year. This was higher than the 1.1 percent projected by analysts, Reuters reported. PPI gained 6.4 percent compared to the 6.9 percent forecast.
The Bank of Japan will also be releasing a summary of opinions at its most recent policy meeting later in the day.Stateside, equities were lower on the back of comments from North Korea indicating the country would continue with its nuclear tests.