Asian shares traded mixed on Wednesday as a strengthening Japanese currency and data showing sluggish growth in Australia damped sentiment. Meanwhile, a surprise rate cut by India’s central bank lifted Indian equities to new highs.
Overnight, U.S. stocks pulled back from recent highs, closing lower in light volume trade as investors weighed soft auto sales and looked ahead to domestic data. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed down 0.5 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq finished down 0.6 percent at 4,979 after topping the 5,000 mark for the first time since March 2000 on Monday.
Indian shares up
The Nifty index elevated 0.9 percent to a record high of 9,081, while the BSE Sensex (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 2836-HK) index advanced to a two-month high, after the Reserve Bank of India announced a 25-basis-point cut in its repo rates ahead of the market open. The repo rates will be reduced to 7.5 percent from 7.75 percent, effectively immediately.
The Indian rupee (Exchange: INR=) briefly hit 61.65 against the dollar, but has since rebounded back to 61.84.
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ASX slips 0.5%
Australia’s S&P ASX 200 index drifted lower, reeling from the impact of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to hold interest rates steady on Tuesday.
All the big four lenders were lackluster: Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 0.8 percent, while National Australia Bank , Australia & New Zealand Banking and Westpac shed between 0.5 to 0.7 percent. Big miners like Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG-AU) lost 3.5 and 5 percent each.
On the domestic data front, Australia grew 2.5 percent on-year in the October-December period, in line with Reuters estimates. On a quarterly basis, the country expanded 0.5 percent, matching market consensus. The Australian dollar briefly hit $ 0.7796 following the gross domestic product (GDP), but has since rebounded back to $ 0.7817 against the dollar.
China’s Shanghai Composite index fluctuated between gains and losses Wednesday as blue-chip stocks turned negative.
Brokerages including Citic Securities and Haitong Securities receded 1.2 and 1 percent each, while Bank of China (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 1988-SZ) led losses in the banking sector, down nearly 2 percent, on news that the lender has seized control of London’s Grosvenor House from its Indian owner and appointed an administrator to begin marketing the property for sale.
China Vanke (: Z2-CN) was also in focus after posting 8.4 billion yuan (Exchange: CNY=) worth of sales in February. Shares of the property developer pared gains to slip 0.2 percent. Meanwhile, Shandong Iron and Steel (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 22-SZ) elevated 1.4 percent on news that it is seeking control of the entire project underway in the Tonkolili iron ore mine in Sierra Leone, which London-listed African Minerals (London Stock Exchange: AMI-GB) owns a 75 percent stake in.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: .HSI) index shed 0.4 percent, with the spotlight on Standard Chartered (London Stock Exchange: STAN-GB), which is due to announce its full-year profit results after market close today. Shares of the British bank sagged 1 percent.
Gaming shares were mixed following data that showed gambling revenue in Macau plunged 49 percent in February, as wealthy players shied away from China’s only legal casino hub. Analysts were expecting a decline of 45 to 55 percent. Sands China (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 1928-HK) and Galaxy Entertainment (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 27-HK) eased more than 1 percent, while Melco Crown (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 6883-HK) bounced up 0.5 percent.
Nikkei falls 0.8%
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index widened losses to a one-week low as the yen strengthened 0.2 percent to trade at 119.5 against the dollar. As a result, blue-chip exporters headed south; Mitsubishi Electric (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6503.T-JP) plunged 22 percent, while Toyota Motor (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7203.T-JP) and Sony (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6758.T-JP) lost 0.7 percent each. Canon (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7751.T-JP) and Toshiba (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6502.T-JP), meanwhile, shed 0.2 and 0.1 percent, respectively.
Sharp (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6753.T-JP) tumbled 4.9 percent after S&P cut its long-term ratings on the company to ‘CCC+’.
Index heavyweights also led the bourse lower; mobile carrier Softbank (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 9984.T-JP) tanked 2.3 percent, while Fanuc (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6954.T-JP) and Fast Retailing (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 9983.T-JP) reversed losses to head up 0.2 and 0.4 percent each.
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South Korea’s Kospi index climbed down from a new five-month high and held near the flatline. AmorePacific (Korea Stock Exchange: 9043-KR) was one of the top losers for the day. Shares of the company erased early gains and receded 4 percent on news that it has decided to split its stock to boost value.
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors climbed 0.3 and 1.3 percent, respectively, after rallying 3 percent each in the previous session.
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