Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Wednesday, as lackluster U.S. data and caution ahead of Jackson Hole meeting prompted many investors to remain on the sidelines. With ECB President Mario Draghi cancelling his Saturday speech, citing heavy workload, investors now see more scope for ECB intervention in the bond market no later than September.
Speculation is rife that the ECB will begin buying bonds with short maturities to ease some of the funding strains and help protect against contagion from the euro area's debt crisis.
Also, expectations for a third round of asset buying remain high as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke used the Jackson Hole meeting in the previous two years to flag Fed's intention to ease policy. Before that, investors eye the release of revised U.S. second-quarter GDP numbers scheduled later today and personal income and spending data for July due out on Thursday for directional cues.
U.S. economic reports released overnight showed that home prices increased for the first time since 2010, while the consumer confidence index declined in August to its lowest level since November 2011.
Tokyo stocks gained ground as a pause in the yen's uptrend allayed concerns about export growth. The benchmark Nikkei average rose 0.4 percent in thin trading, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange finished up half a percent.
Struggling chipmaker Renesas Electronics jumped by a record 35 percent on reports that U.S. fund KKR & Co. will spend 100 billion yen to acquire a controlling stake in the company through a private placement of shares. Shares of NEC, one of the Renesas' top three shareholders, rallied 6.5 percent.
Sharp climbed 7 percent after the TV maker unveiled plans to cut 2,000 jobs in Japan. Daikin Industries fell 3.5 percent after the world's largest air-conditioner maker's board passed a resolution to acquire U.S. competitor Goodman Global Inc.
South Korea's Kospi average rose 0.6 percent, as institutional investors hunted for bargains in tech shares following their recent steep declines amid continuing hopes for central bank action to aid global growth. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which fell drastically in recent sessions, closed up 2.9 percent, while its smaller rival LG Electronics soared 4.4 percent after unveiling new smartphone model Optimus G.
Australian shares edged down marginally, with miners coming under selling pressure after iron ore prices plunged about 5 percent to their lowest level since November 2009 overnight. Fortescue Metals plummeted 6.4 percent, BHP Billiton lost a percent and Rio Tinto shed 2.3 percent.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped just 3 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 4356, while the broader All Ordinaries index slid 0.13 percent The Australian dollar traded in a tight range as investors started pricing in further stimulus from the Fed and ECB in the coming weeks.
In the financial sector, Commonwealth slid 0.2 percent, NAB fell 0.6 percent and Westpac eased marginally, while ANZ gained 0.2 percent. Oil & gas stocks closed mostly higher, with Santos and Oil Search rising between 0.2 percent and half a percent, while retailer Woolworths rose a percent and Wesfarmer edged up 0.3 percent.
New Zealand shares edged down marginally as investors digested mixed results from listed companies recently. The benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 0.02 percent. Heavyweights Telecom, Fletcher Building and Contact Energy ended narrowly mixed showing little change, while Goodman Fielder, which announced the sale of its Integro commercial oils business yesterday, tumbled 5.7 percent.
Clothing chain Hallenstein Glasson Holdings, logistics company Mainfreight and courier company Freightways all fell about 2 percent each. Among the prominent gainers, carpet maker Cavalier, exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, retirement villages operator and developer Ryman Healthcare, rural services firm PGG Wrightson and insurer Tower rose 1-3 percent.
Elsewhere, China's Shanghai Composite index lost a percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng eased 0.1 percent, India's benchmark Sensex was last trading down 0.7 percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index fell 1.2 percent and Malaysia's KLSE Composite edged down marginally, while Singapore's Straits Times index rose 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average gained 0.4 percent.
U.S. stocks ended a lackluster session flat overnight, as investors digested a mixed batch of economic data and looked forward to the Fed statement for clues on future monetary policy. The tech-heavy Nasdaq inched up by about 0.1 percent, while the Dow slipped 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 edged down 0.1 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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