Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday after the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for global growth this year and said it sees major central banks holding their policy-rate settings through 2022.
Gains, if any, were modest as investors looked ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decision due later in the day.
Chinese shares edged up slightly after official data showed the country’s industrial profits increased notably at the end of 2020. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index inched up 3.91 points, or 0.11 percent, to 3,573.34, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 93.73 points, or 0.32 percent, at 29,297.53.
China’s industrial profits grew 20.1 percent year-on-year in December, bigger than the 15.5 percent increase registered in November. This was the eighth consecutive month of growth.
In the whole year of 2020, profits of industrial firms increased 4.1 percent, in contrast to a 3.3 percent drop in 2019.
Japanese shares rose on continued hopes for upbeat corporate earnings from major domestic firms.
The Nikkei average edged up 89.03 points, or 0.31 percent, to 28,635.21, while the broader Topix index closed 0.65 percent higher at 1,860.07.
During a parliamentary committee session, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the country’s fiscal situation is “very serious” and the central bank is buying government bonds not as a way to finance fiscal policies but as part of its policy to achieve its 2 percent inflation target.
Australian markets fell from an 11-month high as traders returned to their desks after a public holiday on Tuesday.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 44.10 points, or 0.65 percent, to 6,780.60, with miners and energy companies pacing the declines. The broader All Ordinaries index ended down 51.20 points, or 0.72 percent, at 7,060.20.
The Aussie dollar showed little reaction to stronger than expected consumer inflation and business conditions data.
Falling iron ore prices weighed on the mining sector, with BHP and Rio Tinto losing 3-4 percent. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group slumped 6.4 percent ahead of its quarterly production results.
Energy stocks also ended broadly, lower, with Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Beach Energy giving up 3-5 percent. Oil Search lost 3.3 percent after it reported an almost 42 percent drop in fourth-quarter revenue.
Seoul stocks ended a choppy session lower due to heavy foreign selling amid concerns that emerging economies may hasten the tightening of their fiscal policies. The benchmark Kospi dipped 17.75 points, or 0.57 percent, to close at 3,122.56.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gave up 1.3 percent and Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, fell 2.4 percent while top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics soared as much as 5.9 percent.
Consumer confidence in South Korea improved in January, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea showed today with an index score of 95.4. That beat forecasts for 93.6 and was up from 89.8 in December.
New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark ending up 50.54 points, or 0.38 percent, at 13,374, led by financials and healthcare firms.
U.S. stocks ended slightly lower overnight as lawmakers remained locked over the details of the fiscal package, the vaccine distribution hiccups continued and investors braced for a slew of big earnings.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped around 0.1 percent while the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.
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