Geopolitics, oil, earnings and stocks in focus
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.26 percent, or 56.79 points, to close at 21,835.53 as the broader Topix added 0.4 percent. The banking and securities sectors ended moderately lower, while utilities stocks and pharmaceuticals contributed to overall gains.
In South Korea, the benchmark Kospi dipped into negative territory before closing higher by 0.1 percent at 2,457.49. Technology shares were a mixed picture, with Samsung Electronics gaining 1.08 percent, while manufacturing stocks were mostly lower.
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Greater China markets underperformed their regional peers. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid 1.75 percent by 3:10 p.m. HK/SIN as financials and technology names took a hit. Property developers were also downbeat, with China Evergrande tumbling 5.3 percent before the market close.
Those declines came as the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the greenback, remained close to the weak end of the currency's trading band.
On the mainland, the Shanghai composite lost 1.53 percent to close at 3,110.75 and the Shenzhen composite eased 0.52 percent to end at 1,824.77. The blue chip CSI 300 index, meanwhile, fell 1.6 percent on weakness in insurers and banking names.
MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was down 0.69 percent at 3:03 p.m. HK/SIN.
Despite that, U.S. stock index futures were trading higher during Asia hours, but had pared some of the steeper gains seen earlier in the day. As of 12:04 p.m. HK/SIN, the implied open for Dow futures was up around 83 points. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were also in the green.
Still, markets were calm, for the most part, following U.S.-led precision missile strikes in Syria on Friday U.S. time. The strikes, carried out in conjunction with the U.K. and France, were intended to serve as a deterrent against chemical weapons.
The airstrikes on Friday "have thus far drawn only verbal condemnation from Russia ... with Russia's prediction of 'global chaos' if the West hits Syria again not filling markets with fresh dread, at least judging from the limited foreign exchange market movements evident in the first two hours of the new trading week," Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.
Against the yen, the dollar edged down slightly to trade at 107.21 at 3:01 p.m. HK/SIN after touching as high as 107.61 earlier in the session.
Tensions related to a trade spat between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, appeared to fade after dominating headlines in recent weeks.
"[T]here is some evidence that both sides have somewhat backed down slightly after [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] championed free trade at Boao Forum and Trump expressed optimism that a trade deal might eventually be agreed," Zhu Huani, an economist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.
Still, trade-related issues were unlikely to be far from investors' minds after a report from The Wall Street Journal last week that Trump was threatening to block Chinese tech investment in the U.S.
Stocks stateside had declined on Friday, weighed down by bank earnings. Results released last week by Citigroup, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase surpassed analyst expectations, and traded higher before falling as markets had already priced in the strong results.
On the commodities front, both U.S. West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude declined after recording their best week since July on Friday.
U.S. crude futures lost 1.23 percent to trade at $66.56 per barrel after rising more than 8 percent last week. Brent crude futures were lower by 1.35 percent at $71.60.
The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six major peers, stood at 89.747.
In individual movers, Hong Kong-listed shares of Russian aluminum company Rusal tumbled 28.92 percent by 3:01 p.m. HK/SIN following news that the U.S. was preparing additional sanctions against Russia. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday that those measures would be announced on Monday U.S. hours, Reuters reported.
Europe ends in the red as political issues rumble on; WPP sinks 6.5%
On the bourses front, Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.91 percent, France's CAC 40 dipped 0.04 percent while Germany's DAX fell 0.41 percent.
Markets in the region failed to see any signs of a boost from Wall Street, which saw U.S. stocks jump on Monday. Around the close, the Dow rose more than 150 points, lifted by earnings and concerns over Syria showing signs of easing. Asia, meantime, closed relatively mixed.
WPP shares tumble after Sorrell quits
Meanwhile, travel and leisure stocks managed to hold onto its gains by the close, after shares of Britain's biggest hotel and coffee shop operator surged to the top of the European benchmark. A unit of U.S. activist hedge fund Elliott Management said it now held the largest stake in Whitbread, Reuters reported. The news prompted its shares to jump more than 7 percent in trade.
Looking at individual stocks, WPP shares — which have already fallen around 30 percent this year — fell 6.5 percent by Monday's close. The world's biggest advertising agency saw its CEO Martin Sorrell quit on Saturday amid allegations of personal misconduct.
Software slipped over 6 percent, despite the company saying it was more confident on sales prospects for its core database unit over the coming six months, Reuters reported. Credit Suisse and Independent Research also cut their price targets on the stock. The news comes shortly after the company released preliminary results late Friday.
Middle East tensions
Putin's comments followed reports that Washington is poised to increase pressure on Moscow with fresh economic sanctions on Monday. The U.S. administration is expected to try and punish Russia for propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In commodity markets, oil prices posted sharp losses Monday amid ongoing tensions in the Middle East. At Europe's market close, Brent crude futures were trading down, last standing at $71.41, with WTI also sharply lower. Basic resources stocks also tumbled, with the sector closing down 1.04 percent.
What will move markets most in the coming days?
Not a Scientific Survey. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.
Dow surges 200 points after Syria fears ease
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 212.90 points to close at 24,573.04, with Merck helping lead the gains in the index. The S&P 500 climbed 0.8 percent to 2,677.84, with materials and telecommunications as the best-performing sectors. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.7 percent to 7,156.28.
Last week, the U.S. military conducted precision missile strikes against the Syrian government in response to a chemical attack carried out in the country. The attack was conducted in conjunction with France and the U.K.
The Pentagon described the U.S.-led strikes as a "justified, legitimate and proportionate response" to the Syrian regime's continued use of chemical weapons. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called the strikes a "one time shot" and said that they were aimed at Syrian government's chemical weapons infrastructure.
"You've also got so much coming out of Washington that makes investors nervous, but not panic unless it's an immediate threat," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.
J.B Hunt Transport rose more than 6 percent on the back of a stronger-than-expected quarterly revenue, led by a 14 percent jump in Intermodal sales, its largest segment. The stock was the best-performing stock in both the S&P 500 and Dow industrials.
The earnings season is off to a good start thus far. Last week, BlackRock, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup reported better-than-expected earnings. Netflix is scheduled to release its quarterly results Monday after the close.
Wall Street has high expectations for this earnings season, with analysts expecting a 17.3 percent increase in first-quarter earnings, according to FactSet.
"This represents a high bar for stocks to get over and [the] pattern of the past 20 years is that stocks have tended to struggle when upside earnings surprises have slowed," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. "Elevated earnings expectations are coming with stock market valuations stretched."
Elsewhere in corporate news, Merck shares popped 2.6 percent after the company said its cancer-treatment drug Keytruda reduced the risk of death in a trial by 51 percent when combined with chemotherapies, versus chemo alone.
In economic news, U.S. retail sales rose 0.6 percent in March, boosted by a 2 percent jump in auto sales.
—CNBC's Amanda Macias contributed to this report