Indian shares led gains in Asia on Wednesday after a surprise rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India. The rest of the region saw a mixed trading picture as a strengthening Japanese currency and worries over sluggish growth in Australia and China damped sentiment.
Overnight, U.S. stocks pulled back from recent highs, closing lower in light volume trade as investors weighed soft auto sales and looked ahead to domestic data. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed down 0.5 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq finished down 0.6 percent at 4,979 after topping the 5,000 mark for the first time since March 2000 on Monday.
ASX slips 0.5%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index drifted lower, reeling from the impact of the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hold interest rates steady on Tuesday.
All the big four lenders were lackluster: Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac closed down 0.9 percent each, while National Australia Bank and Australia & New Zealand Banking shed 0.5 and 0.4 percent. Big miners like Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals lost 3.7 and 5.4 percent each.
On the domestic data front, Australia grew 2.5 percent on-year in the October-December period, in line with Reuters estimates. The Australian dollar briefly hit $0.7796 following the gross domestic product (GDP), but has since rebounded back to $0.7814 against the dollar.
Indian shares up
Indian bourses were on a roll after the Reserve Bank of India announced a 25-basis-point cut in its repo rates ahead of the market open. The repo rates will be reduced to 7.5 percent from 7.75 percent, effectively immediately.
The CNX Nifty index halved gains, but remained trading near all-time highs close to the 9,000 mark. The Indian briefly hit 61.65 against the dollar, but has since jumped back to 61.92.
China's Shanghai Composite index closed up 0.5 percent after wavering between gains and losses following data that showed growth in the country's service sector.
Blue-chip stocks were mixed; brokerages including Citic Securities and Haitong Securities receded 0.8 and 0.5 percent, respectively, while Bank of China led losses in the banking sector, down nearly 2 percent, on news that the lender has seized control of London's Grosvenor House from its Indian owner and appointed an administrator to begin marketing the property for sale.
Shandong Iron and Steel elevated 1.7 percent after it sought control of the project underway in the Tonkolili iron ore mine in Sierra Leone, which London-listed African Minerals owns a 75 percent stake in. China Vanke was also in focus after posting 8.4 billion worth of sales in February. Shares of the property developer inched up 0.2 percent.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index sagged 1 percent to a two-and-a-half-week low, as a bad showing in January retail sales weighed on retailers. Chow Tai Fook, Sa Sa International and Giordano International made losses between 0.3 to 3.2 percent.
Gaming shares were also hit by a 49 percent plunge in Macau's gaming revenue for the month of February, as wealthy players shied away from China's only legal casino hub. Analysts had expected a decline of 45 to 55 percent. Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment eased 1.7 and 2.5 percent, while Melco Crown bounced up 0.6 percent.
Standard Chartered, which is due to announce its full-year profit results after market close today, sagged 0.9 percent.
Nikkei falls 0.6%
Japan's Nikkei 225 index touched a one-week low as the yen strengthened to trade in the mid-119 territory. As a result, blue-chip exporters headed south; Mitsubishi Electric plunged 1.5 percent, while Toyota Motor and Sony lost 0.3 and 0.6 percent each.
Sharp tumbled 5.3 percent after S&P cut its long-term ratings on the company to "CCC+".
Kospi down 0.2%
AmorePacific was one of the top losers for the day. Shares of the company erased early gains and receded nearly 3 percent on news that it has decided to split its stock to boost value.