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Asian shares lower; ASX, Nikkei, Kospi, HSI drop more than 1%

Most Asian markets dropped more than 1 percent after Wall Street's "fear index" spiked on jitters over the U.S. presidential elections.

"Markets have been rankled by some polls putting Trump ahead of Clinton for the first time, given Trump's controversial policy platform of re-looking at trade deals and clamping down on immigration," Chang Wei Liang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, said in a Wednesday note.

Australia's ASX 200 closed down 1.16 percent, or 61.47 points, at 5,229 dragged by its energy subindex, which was down 1.81 percent, and its financials subindex, which fell 1.43 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 ended down 1.76 percent, or 308.07 points, at 17,134.68, likely due to the stronger yen which is seen as a safe haven currency. The yen strengthened against the greenback, fetching 103.86 a dollar as of 1:57 pm HK/SIN, compared to 104 levels seen on Tuesday.

In South Korea, the Kospi closed down 1.42 percent, or 28.45 points, at 1,978.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.44 percent as of 3:09 pm local time.

Mainland China's Shanghai composite was down 0.62 percent, or 19.48 points, at 3,102.97, while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.63 percent, or 13.06 points, at 2,060.05.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.58 percent at 18,037.1, the S&P 500 ended 0.68 percent lower at 2,111.72, and the Nasdaq composite closed down 0.69 percent at 5,153.58, after a choppy day in which better-than-expected earnings failed to cancel out worries about the U.S. election.

The CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX), called the "fear index" because it shows the market's expectations on volatility over a 30-day period, went above the key 20 point during U.S. trading, taking its rise to more than 40 percent over the past six days. It is the first time the VIX has risen for six straight days since the period just before the U.K.'s shock vote to leave the EU, and traders told CNBC the latest climb was due to the increased possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.

The VIX last traded at 18.56 as of 4:14 am HK/SIN time.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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The Federal Reserve will finish its two-day meeting on Wednesday in the U.S. The central bank is considered very unlikely to hike at the meeting, according to the CNBC Fed Survey, which found that 100 percent of respondents did not expect a move, but 86 percent did forecast a quarter-point hike at the December 13-14 meeting.

Meanwhile, it's been a bruising few days for Trump rival Hillary Clinton, after the FBI said it was investigating new emails related to her controversial use of a private server while she served as secretary of state.

"Even if the Fed does signal an inclination to lift rates in December, markets will take the view that this is unlikely if a Trump victory leads to uncertainty and a surge in financial market volatility. This view was played out in markets last night with the U.S. dollar falling sharply and gold rallying," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a Wednesday note.

Spot gold traded at $1,293.02 per ounce, compared to last week's levels as low as $1,266.

In currency markets, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, stood at 97.696 as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN, down from 98 levels on Tuesday.

The Mexican peso extended its fall against the dollar, fetching 19.308 per dollar as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN. The peso had sold off as much as 1.3 percent against the greenback to 19.1102 pesos on Tuesday.

The Korean won weakened against the greenback to 1,148.45, a three-and-a-half month low. In October, the KRW/USD had depreciated as much as 3.5 percent.

"The woes surrounding labor strikes in Hyundai and Samsung's battery flame-outs were part of the domestic reasons that led to the underperformance versus the USD. Arguably, these issues may be partially reflected in the price, but we think that the room for more KRW weakness ahead has increased meaningfully." analysts at National Australia Bank said in a Tuesday note.

Singapore's major banks were mixed, OCBC stock was down 0.47 percent at S$8.46 per share, United Overseas Bank slipped 1.12percent to S$18.50, while DBS traded up 0.07 percent at S$15.00

A Moody's Investors Service report on Wednesday warned that the three banks could see their profitability come under further pressure, as seen in their latest financial results. The ratings agency assigned a negative outlook to the banks' ratings in March.

"The Q3 results for DBS, OCBC and UOB show a further weakening in the banks' asset quality and profitability, because of the persistent challenges that they face in relation to their oil and gas exposures," said Eugene Tarzimanov, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's Investor Service, in the note.

Australia's CSR jumped 8.61 percent to A$3.89 after it reported half-year revenue was up 8 percent to A$1.24 billion, and half-year net profit after tax rose 12 percent to A$103.1 million. The building materials company has risen more than 31 percent year-to-date.

Shares in Virgin Australia were down 4.17 percent at A$0.23per share, after the airline operator reported an underlying loss before tax of A$3.6 million.

Hong Kong-listed Standard Chartered dipped 6.45 percent to HK$63.05 a share, after it reported a 6 percent decline in income from the previous year on Tuesday. The bank also warned that it might have compliance and regulatory struggles ahead, confirming that Hong Kong's financial regulator planned to take action against it because of its role as a joint sponsor in an initial public offering in 2009.

Oil majors in the region were all lower, Australia's Santos was down 4.27 percent, Oil Search fell 1.35 percent and Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.07 percent, Japan's Inpex slipped 1.63 percent, while South Korea's S-Oil was up 1.23 percent, China's Shanghai Pechem was down 1.52 percent and Petrochina was down 0.82 percent.

U.S. crude futures were down 0.77 percent, at $46.31 a barrel, after it had settled to $46.67 on Tuesday. Global benchmark Brent was down 0.60 percent at $47.85 after it settled at $48.14.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said crude inventory rose by 9.3 million barrels in the week to October 28. A Reuters poll had forecast stockpiles to rise by 1 million barrels. Traders will likely look to the Energy Information Administration's official inventory data, due for release later Wednesday, for further direction.

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