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Asian Shares Mostly Higher Ahead Of Fed Decision

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Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Wednesday after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are laying the groundwork for a delay of a fresh round of tariffs set to kick in on December 15. Investors also awaited cues from key central bank meetings and the U.K. general election.

Chinese shares ticked higher as investors hoped for a delay in U.S. tariffs and new loan growth data for November topped forecasts. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 percent to end at 2,924.42, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 0.8 percent to 26,645.43.

China's bank lending increased more than expected in November, data from the People's Bank of China showed. Banks extended CNY 1.39 trillion new loans in November versus CNY 661 billion in October. Lending was forecast to rise to CNY 1.2 trillion.

Meanwhile, Tokyo shares drifted lower as investors kept an eye on key events this week, including the Federal Reserve meeting, the U.K. election and the weekend's U.S.-China trade tariff deadline.

The Nikkei 225 Index gave up 18.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to finish at 23,391.86, while the broader Topix index closed 0.3 percent lower at 1,714.95.

Mitsui OSK Lines and Taiheiyo Cement ended down over 2 percent. Tech shares ended mostly higher, with semiconductor company Sumco spiking 4.2 percent. Advantest and Tokyo Electron rose around 0.8 percent each.

Australian markets rose notably, led by consumer and resource stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 45.70 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,752.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 41.10 points, or 0.6 percent, at 6,853.20.

Defensive stocks inched up, with heavyweights Woolworths Group and Coles Group rising half a percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. Online travel agency Webjet soared 9.6 percent on the buzz that it is a takeover target.

Gold miner Evolution rose 1.6 percent, while energy stocks Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos climbed 1-2 percent. Lender Westpac Banking Corp added 0.7 percent ahead of its annual general meeting Thursday.

GrainCorp shed 0.8 percent after the bulk grain handler appointed Fonterra's Robert Spurway as its new CEO and Managing Director.

Australia's consumer sentiment weakened in December, consistent with the sharp decline in consumer spending in the third quarter, survey data from Westpac showed.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment declined 1.9 percent to 95.1 in December. All components of the index recorded declines during the month.

Seoul stocks gained ground after the release of labor market data. The benchmark Kospi rose 7.62 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,105.62.

South Korea's jobless rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.6 percent in November from 3.5 percent in October, a government report showed. The rate was forecast to remain unchanged at 3.5 percent. In the same period last year, the rate was 3.8 percent.

New Zealand shares ended little changed, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending up 7.74 points at 11,291.96.

The total value of credit card spending in New Zealand was up a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent sequentially in November, Statistics New Zealand said today, in line with expectations following the 0.2 percent drop in October.

Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 0.3 percent after private sector economists raised their outlook for Singapore's economy this year.

The major U.S. averages edged down around 0.1 percent overnight as investors waited to see whether China and the U.S. will strike a so-called phase one trade deal this week.

The downside was capped after House Democrats announced an agreement on President Donald Trump's trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

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