ASIA MARKETS: Asian Stocks Slip To End Mostly Positive Month

Nikkei nears first monthly loss since March, but Hong Kong eyes seventh straight monthly gain

Asian shares generally started Monday with slight declines as investors took profits on the last day of a largely positive month for stocks in the region that benefited from robust earnings and higher commodity prices.

Traders want to hold cash as the possibility of tax and infrastructure overhauls in the U.S. fades, said Hao Hong, head of research at BOCOM International in Hong Kong.

A number of markets struggled for direction Monday as end-of-week declines continued in the U.S. dollar, which remained near its worst levels in a year.

That added pressure on Japanese stocks, which have lagged behind this month and put the Nikkei on the verge of its first monthly decline since March. It is off 0.5% for July, including 0.1% Monday, as the dollar fell below Yen110.50.

But a number of exporter and electronics stocks, which typically fall when the yen strengthens, rose. Strong earnings growth from Hitachi (HTHIY) and Kyocera (6971.TO) helped. Their stocks were recently up 4% and 3%, respectively, to hit their best levels in two years.

Meanwhile, investors again looked to be largely ignoring another missile launch from North Korea. The latest one occurred late Friday, and experts said it put the continental U.S. in range of Pyongyang's arsenal.

Korea's Kospi , which before of the launch on Friday posted its biggest decline in 2017, fell a further 0.3%.

Outperformers again included Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index , which through Friday jumped 4.7% this month to solidify what would be a seventh-straight monthly gain, the longest such run since the eight-month streak in 2007.

The index rose 0.5% early Monday, with heavyweight HSBC (HSBA.LN) up 0.9% ahead of its second-quarter report.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3% on commodity-stock strength as it tries to avoid a third-straight losing month. It entered Monday down 0.3% for July. BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) and Rio Tinto (RIO) gained 2.3% while Oil Search (OSH.AU) and Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AU) added about 1%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 30, 2017 22:42 ET (02:42 GMT)