Korea Shrugs Off Turmoil to Trade Higher

Asia markets turned positive on Monday but traders remained wary ahead of a potential rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve this week.

The Nikkei 225 Index added 29.14 points, or 0.2%, to 19,633.75, as the yen continued to slip against the dollar. A weakened yen is generally seen as a positive for Japan Inc. as it makes exports cheaper and increases overseas earnings when converted back to local currency.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong leaped 261 points, or 1.1%, to 23,829.67

Earlier, official data showed that Japan's core machinery orders fell 3.2% in January from the previous month, missing Reuters estimates of a 0.5% increase.

Core machinery orders are regarded as a leading indicator of capital spending in the coming six to nine months.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support rate slipped six points to just under 56%, according to a opinion poll on Sunday, after weeks of questions in parliament about a land deal by a school operator with whom his wife had links.

The Hong Kong-listed shares of HSBC gained 2.5% on Monday after news that AIA Group Chief Executive Mark Tucker was appointed as the HSBC chairman, replacing Douglas Flint.

The Kospi Index in Korea gained 20.24 points, or 1%, to 2,117.59, as investors shrugged off the political risks after President Park Geun-hye was removed from office last Friday.

Park left the presidential Blue House on Sunday, two days after the Constitutional Court's decision to uphold her impeachment by the National Assembly over a corruption scandal, which also involves Samsung's de facto chief Jay Y. Lee.

But Australian markets fell, as heavy losses in its energy sub-index weighed.

As interest in the bullion, regarded as a safe-haven asset, rose ahead of the Fed's meeting, the Australian Stock Exchange's gold sub-index was strongly higher by 5.4%

Major Australian gold miners all outperformed the overall index. Newcrest Mining added 4.6%, Evolution Mining gained 6.8% and Alacer Gold was up 4.8%.

Against the U.S. dollar, the yen was fetching 114.58 by late afternoon while the Australian dollar was at $0.7581 U.S.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 gained 30.21 points, or 0.9%, to 3,458.10

In Taiwan, the Taiex picked up 69.45 points, or 0.7%, to 9,697.34

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index acquired 13.8 points, or 0.4%, to 3,147.15

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 hiked 17.2 points, or 0.2%, to 7,194.79

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 dumped 18.27 points, or 0.3%, to 5,757.35