Asian stocks sold off sharply Wednesday amid mounting concerns that Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war. Trading volumes also returned to normal with Japan and South Korea coming back online following a long weekend.
In the latest episode of violence, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that Ukrainian forces attacked a checkpoint in the eastern port of Mariupol on Tuesday while Ukrainian military forces continued to surround the pro-Russian stronghold of Slavyansk.
Caution also set in before Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's congressional testimony later in the day. While Yellen is expected to maintain her dovish stance, investors will be watching out for any hints as to the timing of future interest rate hikes.
Nikkei drops 3%
Japan's benchmark index ended at its lowest level since April 15, posting its biggest daily loss since mid-March, as a stronger currency weighed on manufacturers.
The rose to a new three-week high of 101.4 per dollar in afternoon trade. Manufacturers are sensitive to currency movements as an appreciating currency hurts their overseas earnings.
SoftBank, the largest stakeholder in Alibaba, slumped more than 5 percent after the e-commerce firm filed for a $1 billion initial public offering. After the market close, the Japanese telecom firm forecast an 8 percent fall in operating profit for the current financial year.
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ASX slips 0.8%
Australia's benchmark fell to a three-week low, snapping its three-day winning streak, thanks to steep declines amid financials.
Shanghai down 0.9%
Mainland shares ended at a one-week low, breaking their two-day winning streak, after data from HSBC showed expansion in the services industry slowed last month, with employment growth hitting a seven-month low.
Pork-related stocks fell after the country's state planner said Beijing will start a second round of stockpiling in an effort to boost falling prices. Dakang Farming lost over 2 percent while Shuanghui Development fell over 1 percent.
China Railway Construction jumped 2.6 percent after signing a $13.1 billion deal to build a high-speed railway in Nigeria.
In its first-quarter monetary report, the People's Bank of China reassured investors that it will keep using a variety of tools to keep policy steady and ensure there's enough liquidity.
Kospi slips 1%
South Korean shares finished at their weakest levels since March 21 while the shot up to a fresh six-year high against the greenback.
India down 0.5%
Indina shares tracked Asia-wide losses with caution setting in ahead of election results on May 16.