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Asian Shares Mixed Ahead Of US Inflation Data


Asian stocks ended mixed in cautious trade Wednesday ahead of Lunar New Year holidays and the U.S inflation report due later in the day, which may provide further cues on interest-rate changes in the world's largest economy.

It is feared that a spike in inflation on the back of a tightening labor market and increased government spending may push Treasury yields higher once again and send equities spiraling lower.

Chinese stocks eked out modest gains in thin trade ahead of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday starting on Thursday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 14.52 points or 0.46 percent to 3,199.48. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index soared 676.07 points or 2.27 percent to 30,515.60.

Japanese shares hit a four-month low as the dollar slid to a 15-month low against the yen and data showed the country's GDP grew at a slower than expected 0.5 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, marking the eighth straight quarter of expansion.

The Nikkei average dropped 90.51 points or 0.43 percent to 21,154.17, the lowest closing level since Oct. 12. The broader Topix index closed 0.82 percent lower at 1,702.72 amid across-the-board selling.

Panasonic, Toyota Motor and Softbank ended down around 2 percent each. Mitsui Mining & Smelting slumped 4.7 percent and Mitsubishi Materials fell as much as 8.8 percent. Inpex inched up 0.3 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration gained 1 percent despite a dip in crude oil prices overnight.

Fujifilm lost 2 percent after Xerox shareholder Darwin Deason filed a lawsuit against Xerox, alleging that the U.S. photocopier maker's board failed shareholders by approving a merger deal with Fujifilm that undervalued the company.

Australian shares ended lower, dragged down by financials on concerns over possible interest rate hikes by major central banks. Disappointing consumer sentiment figures also weighed on markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index slid 14.70 points or 0.25 percent to 5,841.20 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 17 points or 0.29 percent at 5,940.

Commonwealth Bank shares tumbled 3 percent on going ex-dividend. ANZ shed 0.3 percent and Westpac eased 0.1 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended slightly higher while blood products company CSL soared 5.1 percent after lifting its full-year profit guidance and half-year dividend.

Insurance Australia Group shares jumped 3.2 percent. The insurance giant said it is considering selling parts of its disappointing Asian arm.

Energy giant Woodside Petroleum entered a trading halt, pending a capital raising for an acquisition. Myer Holdings advanced 1.9 percent after its chief executive Richard Umbers stepped down from the helm of the struggling department store.

Domino's Pizza Enterprises climbed 6 percent after the fast food chain slightly lowered its sales guidance for its Australia and New Zealand stores. Packaging company Orora gained 3.1 percent after its half-year profit rose 13 percent from last year.

Seoul stocks rose for a third straight session after data showed the country's jobless rate decreased slightly at the start of the year, matching consensus estimate.

The benchmark Kospi rallied 26.64 points or 1.11 percent to 2,421.83, led by market heavyweight Samsung Electronics which jumped 3.1 percent on buying by foreign investors.

South Korean financial markets will be closed on Thursday and Friday for Chinese New Year holiday.

New Zealand shares fell sharply after Fletcher Building revealed a further $486 million provision for project losses at its troubled Building and Interiors division.

The benchmark S&P/NZX-50 index dropped 63.42 points or 0.78 percent to 8,058.80 while Fletcher Building shares plummeted as much as 9.3 percent.

Singapore's Straits Times index was marginally lower after a government report showed the country's economic growth eased less than initially estimated in the three months ended December.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was up 0.2 percent after fourth-quarter GDP data topped forecasts. GDP advanced an annual 5.9 percent, slower than the 6.2 percent rise in the third quarter but above forecasts for 5.8 percent growth.

Benchmark indexes in India and Indonesia were largely unchanged.

U.S. stocks closed higher for a third straight session on Tuesday, although overall gains remained muted ahead of slew of economic data due this week.

The Dow inched up 0.2 percent, the Nasdaq Composite rose half a percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.

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