Asia Markets

Asian stocks end mostly lower; China stimulus in focus


Asian stock markets closed mostly lower on Tuesday following losses on Wall Street overnight and as investors fretted over developments in Ukraine and China.

Earlier in the session, major indices swung between gains and losses amid growing hopes that China will unveil fresh stimulus measures to combat slowing economic growth.

"We think the Chinese government has made it quite clear that they are considering accelerating fiscal stimulus but we do not expect any fresh monetary stimulus in the near term. The PBOC may allow the yuan to weaken further, which would provide relief to exporters and keep rates low but that's the extent of monetary adjustments," said Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management.

Concerns over Crimea also weighed on sentiment after leaders of the G-7 nations said they were ready to impose tougher sanctions on Russia if necessary. Meanwhile, Wall Street shares posted a second straight session of losses after data showed that manufacturing activity slipped in March.

Shanghai flat

Mainland shares managed to end in positive territory on stimulus hopes while the yuan strengthened against the greenback, rising to a one-week high at 6.1732 per dollar.

Shares linked to Shanghai's free-trade zone led the gains on reports that restrictions on foreign investment would be further relaxed in the zone. Shanghai International Port and Shanghai Luijiazui Finance climbed 10 percent each.

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Liquor maker Kweichow Moutai tumbled 2.6 percent despite its 2013 net profit rising 13.7 percent, which was above market estimates.

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Nikkei 0.3% lower

Japanese shares lost ground on profit-taking following the near 2 percent rally on Monday. Sentiment was hurt after Bank of Japan deputy governor Kikuo Iwata said on Monday that foreign investors have yet to be convinced of Japan's resolve to end deflation.

Cosmetics maker Mandom Corp rose 0.8 percent after a report in the Nikkei newspaper that the firm is expected to post an all-time high operating profit for the current year through March.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial rose 0.8 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported that it is interested in buying Royal Bank of Scotland's U.S. retail banking business. Other banks also rose on the news with Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho higher between 0.5 and 0.7 percent.

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Sydney 0.5% lower

Australia's benchmark index hovered around 5,320 points in quiet trade while the Australian dollar hit its highest level so far this year at $0.9158.

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Resource stocks saw the brunt of losses with gold miners Newcrest Mining down 5 percent and Kingsgate Consolidated 6 percent lower, while oil producers Woodside Petroleum and Santos shed 0.7 and 1.3 percent respectively on the back of weak crude prices.

In earnings news, Premier Investments jumped 11 percent after announcing a 3.7 percent rise in first-half revenue while TPG Telecom climbed 7.3 percent to a record high after posting a 15 percent increase in first-half net profit.

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Kospi slips 0.2%

Seoul shares tracked Asia-wide declines to move off the previous day's two-week closing high.

Defense stocks were mixed on news that the government boosted its air defense budget with a $6.79 billion order for 40 Lockheed Martin fighter jets. Huneed Tech fell 0.7 percent and Firstec lost 1 percent.

India finishes flat

The benchmark Sensex index was little changed after rallying to a record high on Monday. The rallied for a third straight day, hitting a six-month high of 60.50 per dollar on strong foreign inflows.