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Asian Shares Mixed As Syria Tensions Rise

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Asian stocks gave up early gains to end mixed on Wednesday despite strong gains on Wall Street overnight and a rally in oil prices amid warnings of western air strikes against Syria.

China's Shanghai Composite index rose 17.76 points or 0.56 percent to 3,208.08 after PBOC Governor Yi Gang said China will allow more foreign investment in the financial sector over the next few months.

Meanwhile, China's inflation eased more-than-expected in March as demand decreased after the Lunar New Year holidays, official data showed. Similarly, factory gate inflation weakened for the fifth consecutive month.

Consumer prices in China were up just 2.1 percent year-on-year in March, well beneath expectations for 2.6 percent and down sharply from 2.9 percent in February. Producer prices gained an annual 3.1 percent - also shy of forecasts for 3.3 percent and down from 3.7 percent in the previous month.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up half a percent in late trade, with energy and technology stocks faring well after oil prices soared and Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg apologized to U.S. lawmakers for a privacy scandal.

Japanese shares fell for the first time in three sessions amid reports that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering more aggressive strike in Syria within the next 48 hours. The Nikkei average shed 0.49 percent to end at 21,687.10, while the broader Topix index closed 0.38 percent lower at 1,725.30.

Retail stocks were among the worst hit after J.Front Retailing's full-year profit forecast fell short of market expectations. Fast Retailing dropped 1.3 percent, J.Front Retailing lost 9.3 percent and Takashimaya declined 3.3 percent.

SoftBank shares surged 3.5 percent on the back of reports that the Sprint telecoms company it owns had resumed tentative merger talks with rival telecoms group T-Mobile US.

In economic releases, core machine orders in Japan advanced a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent sequentially in February, the Cabinet Office said - coming in at 891.0 billion yen. That beat forecasts for a decline of 2.5 percent following the 8.2 percent spike in January.

Australian shares retreated as investors sold off defensive stocks and lapped up resource stocks on the back of strength in commodity prices after China promised lower tariffs.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 28.30 points or 0.48 percent to 5,828.70 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 26 points or 0.44 percent at 5,925.80.

The big four banks fell between 1 percent and 1.4 percent while mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rallied 1.9 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. South32 tumbled 2.3 percent after the company said it would appeal a Colombian Courts' decision to pay damages to local communities.

Energy stocks Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy climbed 1-2 percent as Brent crude futures rose above $71 a barrel after surging more than 3 percent on Tuesday amid warnings of western air strikes against Syria.
WorleyParsons shares closed 5 percent higher.

On the data front, consumer confidence in Australia ebbed in April, the latest survey from Westpac Bank revealed as its index sank 0.6 percent to a score of 102.4. That follows the 0.2 percent gain in March to a reading of 103.0.

Seoul stocks gave up early gains to close lower as traders kept a watchful eye on escalating tensions in Syria. The benchmark Kospi slid 6.52 points or 0.27 percent to finish at 2,444.22. Cosmetic shares succumbed to selling pressure, with AmorePacific and LG Household & Healthcare ending down 2-3 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended down 16.05 points or 0.19 percent at 8,453.72. Pushpay Holdings shares tumbled 3 percent after the mobile app payments firm said its annualized committed monthly revenue fell 19 percent in the March quarter.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was moving up 0.4 percent. Preliminary figures showed that Malaysia's industrial production climbed 3.0 percent year-over-year in February, slower than the 5.4 percent rise in January. Economists had expected the growth to ease to 3.1 percent

India's Sensex was marginally higher in choppy trade. Benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent.

U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight as comments from Chinese President Xi Jinping helped ease trade tensions, oil prices skyrocketed and Facebook shares surged following CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony to Congress.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.8 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.1 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 1.7 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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