Markets in Asia clawed back some gains on Thursday after sliding in the last session on trade-related fears. Gains in the region came after US stocks closed above session lows on fresh developments related to planned metals tariffs.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.89 percent and the Topix was up 0.73 percent, with all but two of its 33 sub-indexes gaining in the morning.
The Topix Iron & Steel index rose 1 percent as steel producers edged higher. Kobe Steel rose 3.02 percent, Nisshin Steel edged up by 0.07 percent and JFE Holdings traded flat.
Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.59 percent, with strength seen in automakers and tech names. Shipbuilders also put in a strong showing, with Samsung Heavy rising 4.86 percent and Hyundai Heavy Industries climbing 5.11 percent.
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 tacked on 0.35 percent after declining 1.01 percent in the last session. Most of the index's sub-indexes notched gains, although the materials, gold producers and energy sectors traded in the red after commodities struggled in the last session.
Possible US tariff exemptions
US stock indexes, which had initially tumbled following Gary Cohn's resignation from the Trump administration, pared some early losses after the White House hinted that Mexico and Canada could be exempt from planned metals tariffs.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday said recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports could include "potential carve-outs ... based on national security." The president is expected to sign off on the tariff plan this week, she said.
While that was positive news for Canada and Mexico, trade-related concerns were unlikely to completely evaporate.
"[T]he potential for more, rather than less tariffs for China and Europe, remains the key risk," said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank, in a morning note.
Cohn, Trump's top economic advisor and a free trade advocate, had resigned after the president announced last week that tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent would be implemented on steel and aluminum imports, respectively.
The greenback edged up against a basket of currencies overnight, with the dollar index standing at 89.637 at the end of the last session.
Against the yen, the dollar last traded at 106.17, not far from Wednesday's close of 106.08. The US currency had slipped from the 106.1 handle to levels around 105.5 on the back of Cohn's resignation during Wednesday Asia hours.
Meanwhile, oil pared some losses after tumbling in the previous session due to trade concerns. US West Texas Intermediate crude advanced 0.28 percent to trade at USD 61.32 per barrel after settling 2.3 percent lower on Wednesday. Brent crude futures, which had yet to trade, erased 2.2 percent to settle at USD 64.34 per barrel in the last session.
On the data front, fourth-quarter gross domestic product in Japan was revised higher to 1.6 percent from an initial estimate of 0.5 percent, Reuters said. That was also above the 0.9 percent increase projected in a Reuters poll.
What's on tap
Here's the economic calendar for Thursday (all times in HK/SIN):8:30 a.m.: Australia January balance of trade
11:00 a.m.: China February balance of trade
The Bank of Japan also begins its monetary policy meeting on Thursday.Ahead, the European Central Bank will announce its rates decision during European hours.