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Asian Shares Mixed Amid Possible U.S. Stimulus Impasse

stockmarkets aug16 29jul20 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday as investors awaited updates on a U.S. coronavirus relief bill and looked ahead to a Federal Reserve meeting for clues on the outlook for monetary policy.

China's Shanghai Composite Index jumped 66.59 points, or 2.1 percent, to 3,294.55 on hopes for a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 110.38 points, or 0.5 percent, at 24,883.14.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares fell sharply to extend losses for the fourth straight session, with a rising yen and weak corporate earnings reports weighing on sentiment.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 260.27 points, or 1.2 percent, at 22,397.11, a three-week low. The broader Topix closed 1.3 percent lower at 1,549.04, dragged down by steel and iron, transportation equipment and consumer credit companies.

Canon slumped 13.5 percent after the digital camera maker reported its first ever quarterly loss. Similarly, automaker Nissan Motor plunged 10.4 percent after reporting a loss for the first quarter and projecting a loss for fiscal 2020.

Australian markets gave up early gains to end modestly lower. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 14.10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,006.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 18.80 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,128.

The big four banks rose 1-2 percent after the financial watchdog withdrew a request for banks and insurers to freeze dividends. Engineering contractor CIMIC Group edged up slightly on news it is in advanced talks to sell 50 percent of its mining services business.

Mining heavyweight BHP lost 2 percent and Rio Tinto shed 0.7 percent. Gold miners fell despite safe-haven gold prices rising to another record high overnight. Northern Star Resources and Regis Resources lost about 3 percent.

Tech stocks followed their U.S. peers lower, with buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay falling 1.2 percent. Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search declined 1-2 percent.

Consumer prices in Australia were down 0.3 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, a government report showed. That exceeded expectations for a drop of 0.4 percent following the 2.2 percent increase in the previous three months.

On a quarterly basis, consumer prices sank 1.9 percent - again exceeding expectations for a fall of 2.0 percent after adding 0.3 percent in the three months prior.

Seoul stocks rose for a third straight session as foreign investors extended their buying streak. The benchmark Kospi rose 6.17 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,263.16.

Market behemoth Samsung Electronics gained 0.7 percent to extend its winning streak to a fourth day. Internet giant Naver advanced 1.4 percent and top automaker Hyundai Motor added 1.6 percent.

Consumer sentiment in South Korea strengthened in July, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea showed today with a consumer survey score of 84.2 - up from 81.8 in June.

New Zealand shares finished modestly higher amid hopes for further U.S. stimulus. The benchmark NZX-50 Index rose 21.17 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,599.44, snapping a five-day losing streak.

U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as earnings from 3M and McDonald's missed estimates and data showed U.S. consumer confidence ebbed in July amid a flare-up in Covid-19 infections across the country. A delay over the second stimulus package also dented sentiment as the Fed meeting got underway.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.8 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 1.3 percent and the S&P 500 declined 0.7 percent.

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