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Asian Shares Edge Lower Ahead Of Central Bank Meetings

asian martket down 121418 19mar19 lt

Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Tuesday as investors awaited a slew of central bank decisions scheduled for the week.

The U.S. Federal Reserve kicks off its two-day monetary policy meeting later in the day, while the Bank of England announces its interest rate decision on Thursday.

In Asia, central banks in Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand all have monetary policy meetings this week.

Chinese shares fell on profit taking after a recent string of gains on hopes for continued government support to boost growth.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dipped 5.44 points or 0.2 percent to 3,090.98, although Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up 57.27 points or 0.2 percent to 29,466.28.

Japanese shares edged lower as the yen firmed up against the dollar ahead of the Fed and BoE meetings this week. The Nikkei 225 Index slipped 17.65 points or 0.1 percent to 21,566.85, while the broader Topix ended down 3.45 points at 1,610.23.

Exporters Canon, Sony and Panasonic fell between 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent as the dollar weakened against the yen for a third straight session. Online fashion retailer Zozo Inc. plunged 11.3 percent after a brokerage downgrade.

Meanwhile, rising U.S. yields pushed financials higher, with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Dai-ichi Life gaining around 1 percent. Japan Display Inc. jumped 7.3 percent after Singapore-based fund Effissimo said it is eager to offer suggestions to management.

Japanese industrial output fell a seasonally adjusted 3.4 percent month-on-month in January compared to the 3.7 percent decline estimated earlier, a government report showed.

Australian markets fluctuated before finishing marginally lower as losses in the healthcare sector offset gains among miners.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged down 5.70 points or 0.1 percent to 6,184.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index slipped 7.00 points or 0.1 percent to 6,276.60.

New Hope Corp. plunged 11.8 percent after the coal miner reported a 4 percent increase in its half-year net profit.

Biopharmaceutical firm CSL dropped 1.6 percent and hearing implant maker Cochlear declined 1.8 percent as the U.S. dollar hovered near a two-week low amid bets for a dovish Fed.

Westpac Banking Corp. slid 0.4 percent after the bank decided to sell its personal finance advice business. The other three big banks fell between 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto climbed around 1.7 percent as iron ore prices rose across the board on supply concerns after Brazilian miner Vale SA announced further production cuts.

In economic news, minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's March meeting noted "significant uncertainties" over the state of the economy.

Separately, a government report showed that house prices in Australia were down 2.4 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2018, missing expectations for a decrease of 2.0 percent.

Seoul stocks ended little changed with a negative bias as investors awaited the outcome of the Federal Reserve meeting to see if the U.S. central bank would stick to its pledge of a "patient" approach to monetary policy.

New Zealand shares fell from the record high hit on Monday, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending down 17.85 points or 0.2 percent at 9,497.27.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended modestly higher, with news on the merger and acquisition front and renewed hopes for a U.S.-China trade deal offering support.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, to close at their best levels in over five months.

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