Asian markets lower, oil rises on Iran concerns

Asian stock markets were mostly lower while oil prices surged for a second day Monday following reports Washington wants to block Iranian exports.

Tokyos benchmark edged up while Shanghai, Seoul and India retreated. Hong Kong and Sydney were closed for the holiday.

On Wall Street, the benchmark Standard & Poors 500 index ended a shortened trading week Thursday snapping a winning streak of three weekly gains.

Investors looked ahead to U.S. quarterly gross domestic product due out Friday. Also this week, the United States reports new home sales Tuesday while Japan announces factory output on Friday.

The broad expectation is for U.S. indices to grind higher, said Jingyi Pan of IG Markets in a report.

However, with prices nearing all-time highs, some sense of caution may be bound to set in, Pan said. Earnings and the first reading of U.S. Q1 GDP at the end of the week would be key for markets.

Tokyos Nikkei 225 index rose 12 points to 22,213.37 and Seouls Kospi gained 0.1 to 2,218.47. The Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.4 to 3,250.91.

Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore rose while Jakarta retreated.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 gained 0.2 to 2,905.03 before closing for Good Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4 to 26,559.54. The Nasdaq composite added less than 0.1 to 7,998.06.

Oil prices rose following news reports the Trump administration will tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they import oil from Iran.

Washington wants to step up pressure on Tehran by cutting of export revenue, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

If successful, that could boost demand for supplies from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but would heighten political tensions.

The big fear now and perhaps the markets next significant catalyst, will Iran retaliate with force? said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report.

Benchmark U.S. crude surged 1.55 to 65.62 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 1.20 on Friday to close at 64.07. Brent crude, used to price international oils, soared 1.79 to 73.76 per barrel in London. It gained 35 cents the previous session to 71.97.

CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 111.94 yen from Fridays 111.91 yen. The euro declined to 1.1239 from 1.1245.