Asian stocks drifted back near one-year highs on Tuesday as investors looked past a trade spat between the United States and China, with exporter shares in Japan getting a lift as the yen's surge relented.
The Nikkei average <.N225> edged up 0.1 percent as companies such as Canon Inc <7751.T> bounced back from a slide sparked by the yen's jump to a seven-month high against the dollar, which took the Japanese currency into territory seen as damaging to exporter earnings.
The yen slipped back to more than 91 per dollar, providing some relief to investors worried that sustained gains would prove a serious obstacle to Japan Inc's gradual recovery this year.
While officials in the outgoing Japanese government voiced concern about the yen's rise, the former finance minister tipped to again take the helm of the ministry -- Hirohisa Fujii -- has said Japan should not intervene in markets.
Market participants speculate Fujii may be more tolerant of a stronger yen and reluctant about intervening in the forex market, said Makoto Yamashita, chief Japan interest rate strategist at Deutsche Securities in Tokyo.
Japan has racked up foreign reserves totaling more than $1 trillion, second only to China's, from its previous bouts of yen-selling intervention. But Japan has stayed out of the market since 2004, even during last year's violent yen surge as leveraged carry trades were unwound.
Other Asian indexes also posted slight gains. Seoul's KOSPI <.KS11> rose 0.8 percent, with financial shares such as Shinhan Financial Group <055550.KS> leading gains.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 0.4 percent, recouping some of the previous day's losses and hovering just below a one-year peak struck last week. For the year, the MSCI benchmark for Asia is still up about 53 percent.
On Monday, the U.S. S&P 500 <.SPX> edged up 0.6 percent and reached its highest levels of 2009 after a slew of merger activity suggested big investors still see value in the market following this year's rebound.
Optimism about potential deals overshadowed concerns about trade friction between the United States and China after Washington imposed special duties on Chinese tire imports.
White House economic adviser Larry Summers said late on Monday that the United States acted responsibly in slapping duties on Chinese tires after trying to negotiate a settlement with Beijing.
The battered U.S. dollar was little changed in Asia, holding off a one-year low touched on Friday. The dollar index <.DXY>, a gauge of its performance against six major currencies, was steady at 76.691.
The dollar edged up 0.3 percent against the yen to 91.13 yen, pulling up from the seven-month low of 90.18 yen hit on Monday. The euro dipped 0.1 percent to $1.4615 but hovered near a nine-month high.
The Australian dollar slipped after the country's central bank felt the economy was substantially stronger than expected at this month's policy meeting but decided there was enough uncertainty over the outlook to argue against a rate hike, according to meeting minutes.
The Aussie dipped 0.2 percent to $0.8604, just below a one-year high.
Safe-haven government bonds lost ground as stock markets stabilized. The benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond yield edged up 1.5 basis points to 1.305 percent, holding in a range between 1.285 percent and 1.355 percent over the past few weeks.