Asian Shares Inch Higher As U.S. Tightening Worries Ease

Asian stocks rose broadly on Wednesday amid bets that central banks will be less aggressive with rate hikes in the coming months.

The upside was limited as investors awaited the release of minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting later in the day for clues on future interest rate hikes.

The dollar index held steady and gold traded flat, while oil prices recovered some lost ground in Asian trading after the American Petroleum Institute report showed a larger-than-expected drop in U.S. oil and gasoline inventories.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent to 3,292.53 a day after policymakers announced a slew of stimulus measures to revive growth. There were also reports that Beijing is considering more debt guarantees to support the property sector.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.5 percent higher at 19,922.45 as investors awaited earnings from internet giant Tencent Holdings.

Japanese shares led regional gains as the yen traded lower and government data showed core machinery orders rose 0.9 percent in June from the previous month.

Separate data revealed that Japan logged a trade deficit for a 12th consecutive month in July as a surge in imports overwhelmed export growth.

The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 1.2 percent to 29,222.77, while the broader Topix closed 0.8 percent higher at 1,997.42.

Automakers Honda Motor, Nissan and Toyota all climbed around 2 percent. Sony gained 2.4 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing added 2.5 percent.

Seoul stocks drifted lower on profit taking after three days of gains. The Kospi ended down 0.5 percent at 2,521.84, falling from a two-month high amid declines in the automotive sector. Hyundai Motor lost 3.8 percent and Kia Corp. shed 2 percent.

Australian markets eked out modest gains after second quarter wage growth lagged forecasts in line with what the Reserve Bank has forecast.

Corporate earnings also remained in focus, with biotech giant CSL falling 3.4 percent after posting a drop in annual profit. Energy producer Santos fell 2.1 percent despite reporting record first-half free cash flow and underlying earnings.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.3 percent to 7,127.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended 0.3 percent higher at 7,381.10.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index finished marginally higher at 11,852.93 after the country’s central bank announced a fourth consecutive 50 basis point rate hike to 3.00 percent, a level not seen since September 2015.

The central bank warned that domestic inflationary pressure was still high and underlying inflation was still rising.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight, as Walmart and Home Depot posted better-than-expected financial results and a slew of economic data painted a mixed picture of the economy.

Housing starts fell again in July, while industrial production bounced back on strong manufacturing, separate reports showed.

The Dow rose 0.7 percent to extend gains for a fifth straight session and the S&P 500 edged up 0.2 percent to reach its best closing level in almost four months, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.2 percent.

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