Asian Shares Mixed As U.S.-China Tensions Weigh

Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday amid signs of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing in recent days.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer described the state of bilateral relations as “tense,” adding the Biden administration is looking at other actions it can take after shooting down what it called a Chinese surveillance balloon over the weekend.

In addition, it was reported that China has declined a U.S. request for a phone call between defense chiefs.

The dollar wobbled after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that disinflation “has begun” but additional rate increases will be needed. Gold held steady in Asian trading, while oil prices slipped after two days of gains.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 3,232.11, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended marginally lower at 21,283.52.

Food delivery giant Meituan slumped 6.4 percent on reports that a rival Bytedance unit is considering expanding services in China.

Japanese stocks ended a tad lower as the yen steadied after rallying more than 1 percent in the previous session.

The Nikkei 225 Index shed 0.3 percent to close at 27,606.46 following weak earnings reports from Softbank Group, Nintendo and Sharp Electronics. Shares of the companies plunged 5-13 percent. The broader Topix ended marginally higher at 1,983.97.

Japan’s current account surplus nearly halved in 2022 from last year to hit its lowest level in eight years, data showed earlier today.

Seoul stocks advanced, with the Kospi climbing 1.3 percent to 2,483.64 on foreign buying. SK Hynix topped the gainers list to close 4.5 percent higher, while Korea Electric Power, Hyundai Motor and Samsung Electronics gained 1-2 percent.

Australian markets eked out modest gains, led by financials. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.4 percent to 7,530.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index closed 0.4 percent higher at 7,740.50.

Suncorp jumped 4.6 percent after the general insurer reported strong first-half results, boosted by higher insurance pricing. Likewise, investment bank Macquarie Group rallied 2.6 percent after reporting bumper third-quarter results.

Miner Fortescue Metals Group added 2 percent after signing a Mining Convention for the Belinga iron ore project in Gabon.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index settled 0.7 percent higher at 12,211.96.

U.S. stocks ended Tuesday’s session on a buoyant note after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he expects 2023 to be a year of “significant declines in inflation” but additional rate increases may be required if the economic data doesn’t cooperate.

The Dow rose 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 1.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 1.9 percent.

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