Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday despite a solid lead from Wall Street overnight. While Treasury yields stabilized, worries about policy tightening in China kept investors on tenterhooks.
Chinese shares ended a choppy session little changed as investors reacted to mixed inflation data and signs of policy tightening. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index finished marginally lower at 3,357.74, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent to 28,907.52.
Consumer prices in China were down 0.2 percent year-on-year in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said. That exceeded expectations for a decline of 0.4 percent and was up from -0.3 percent in the previous month.
The bureau also said that producer prices were up an annual 1.7 percent – exceeding expectations for an increase of 1.5 percent and up sharply from 0.3 percent in January.
Japanese shares ended a volatile session on a flat note amid a year-end selloff by funds. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index rose above the 29,200 level earlier in the day before finishing marginally higher at 29,036.56. The broader Topix closed 0.1 percent higher at 1,919.74.
Fanuc led gainers to rise 3.4 percent, while Sony, Advantest and KDDI rose 2-3 percent. Steel and mining stocks fell the most, with Nippon Steel, Kobe Steel and JFE Holding ending down between 2.5 percent and 3.4 percent. Index heavyweight Fast Retailing lost 2.4 percent.
Australian markets fell sharply after two straight days of gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended down 57.10 points, or 0.8 percent, at 6,714.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index dropped 53.20 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,947.20.
The big four banks fell between 1.3 percent and 2 percent after central bank chief Philip Lowe reiterated the bank’s commitment to its three-year yield target. Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search tumbled 3-4 percent after crude oil prices dropped overnight.
Miners succumbed to heavy selling pressure, with BHP falling 2.8 percent, while Rio Tinto slumped 5.5 percent and Fortescue Metals Group plunged 8.3 percent.
Gold miners bucked the weak trend after gold futures rose sharply on Tuesday to reclaim the key price at $1,700 an ounce and post their first gain in five sessions on the back of a retreat in bond yields. Evolution Mining, Newcrest and Northern Star Resources all rose about 2 percent.
Tech shares rebounded after a rally by the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index overnight. Buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay soared 7.5 percent and Appen rallied 3.3 percent.
On the economic front, reports on building permits and consumer confidence painted a positive picture of the economy.
Seoul stocks fell for the fifth straight session as foreigners and institutions locked in profits amid lingering concerns over rising inflationary pressure.
The benchmark Kospi slid 18.00 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 2,958.12, dragged down by tech and auto stocks. SK Hynix lost 2.6 percent and Hyundai Motor gave up 1.7 percent.
New Zealand shares advanced, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index climbing 106.75 points, or 0.9 percent, to 12,251.90. With financial market conditions improving significantly since March 2020, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand said it will remove some temporary liquidity facilities it had put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In economic news, government data showed that overall retail card spending in the country fell 5.3 percent in February on a yearly basis after climbing 1.9 percent in the previous month.
U.S. stocks gained ground overnight as a retreat in bond yields prompted investors to pick up battered technology stocks.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite soared 3.7 percent and the S&P 500 climbed 1.4 percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average came off from its highs to end 0.1 percent higher.
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