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Asian Shares Subdued As Virus Worries Mount

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Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Tuesday as concerns around the global spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant and rising tensions between China and the West dented sentiment and stoked demand for safe-haven assets.

Investors also kept an eye on Treasury yields, with U.S. President Joe Biden adding his voice to assurances that inflationary pressures will be temporary.

Chinese shares cut early losses to end marginally lower as the People's Bank of China kept its July loan prime rate unchanged. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 230.53 points, or 0.8 percent, to 27,259.25.

Japanese shares ended lower for the fifth straight session to enter correction territory, as concerns grew over the coronavirus surge ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games set to start on Friday. Japanese markets will be closed on Thursday and Friday for public holidays.

The Nikkei 225 Index slumped 264.58 points, or 1 percent, to 27,388.16, hitting its lowest level since January 6. The broader Topix closed 1 percent lower at 1,888.89.

Heavyweights Fast Retailing Co. and SoftBank Group Corp. fell 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, while robot maker Fanuc gave up 2.4 percent. Automakers were among the biggest drags, with Honda Motor, Toyota and Nissan falling 1-3 percent.

Canon soared 9.2 percent after raising its annual operating profit forecast. Rival Nikon jumped 3 percent.

Data released earlier in the day showed Japan's national core consumer price index grew an annual 0.2 percent in June, coming in line with expectations.

Australian markets ended off their day's lows as the minutes from Reserve Bank of Australia's latest policy meeting revived dovish expectations.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index hit its lowest level since June 2 before ending the session down 33.80 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,252.20. The broader All Ordinaries Index dropped 33.90 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,525.80.

Oil Search jumped 6.3 percent after the oil and gas explorer rejected a takeover bid from Santos. Shares of the latter tumbled 5 percent, while Beach Energy and Origin Energy fell more than 2 percent amid the oil price sell-off.

Mining heavyweight BHP lost 2.5 percent after it reported lower annual production across four of its six major divisions. Rival Rio Tinto gave up 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay advanced 1.6 percent after saying it would launch a new banking application in October.

Seoul stocks fell for the third day running amid concerns that the resurgence in the new coronavirus variants ahead of the summer holiday season may deter economic recovery. The benchmark Kospi dipped 11.34 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,232.70, with expectations for solid second quarter earnings helping limit losses.

New Zealand shares recovered from an early slide to end on a flat note. The benchmark NZX-50 Index fell nearly one percent to reach its lowest level since June-end before recouping most losses to end the session marginally lower at 12,650.84.

SkyCity Entertainment tumbled 3.6 percent on news its Adelaide casino and entertainment facilities would be closed until at least July 27. Vista Group shares surged 4.2 percent.

U.S. stocks tumbled overnight to reach their lowest closing levels in almost a month as new COVID-19 cases continued to surge, oil prices plummeted on oversupply fears and data showed an unexpected dip in homebuilder confidence.

The Dow plunged 2.1 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.1 percent and the S&P 500 shed 1.6 percent.

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