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Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trade

stockmarkets dec18 18sep20 lt

Asian stocks ended on a mixed note Friday after the U.S. Federal Reserve promised to keep rates low for a long time but stopped short of promising changes to its massive bond-buying program.

The Bank of Japan signaled readiness to ramp up stimulus, while the Bank of England gave its strongest hint yet that negative interest rates could be on the way.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rallied 2.07 percent to 3,338.09, with financials leading the surge on hopes of fresh supportive measures to boost the coronavirus-ravaged economy. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent to 24,455.41.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up slightly as the yen traded lower on data showing that the key inflation gauge in the country went negative again last month amid a steep drop in the cost of hotel accommodations.

Waning coronavirus concerns and expectations that new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration will ensure political stability also offered some support ahead of a four-day holiday through next Tuesday.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.2 percent to finish at 23,360.30, while the broader Topix index closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,646.42. NTT Data, Isuzu Motors, Fujitsu and NEC were among the prominent gainers.

Seoul stocks climbed amid buying by foreign investors. The benchmark Kospi edged up 0.3 percent to 2,412.40, with healthcare and chemical stocks pacing the gainers.

LG Chem rallied 3.3 percent after falling as much as 9 percent the previous day on news the company plans to separate its battery business into a new corporation in December.

Meanwhile, Australian markets ended lower after trading sideways for most of the session. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.3 percent to 5,864.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 0.2 percent at 6,057.60.

Industrial stocks were among the worst hit, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto recovered from the previous session's sell-off. Toll road operator Transurban Group lost 3.1 percent and logistics specialist Brambles gave up 1.9 percent.

New Zealand shares tumbled after comments from Finance Minister Grant Robertson suggested that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will likely stand pat on rate changes until March. The benchmark NZX-50 Index tumbled 143.61 points, or 1.2 percent, to 11,633.52.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended lower as weak jobless claims figures added to concerns that the economic recovery is plateauing.

The Dow slid half a percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 1.3 percent and the S&P 500 dropped 0.8 percent.

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