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Asian stocks hurt by lower oil prices, rate hike speculation

Asian stocks outside Japan declined on Thursday, as weaker oil prices and expectations of a U.S. rate hike in September curbed risk appetite.

"With the September FOMC meeting now firmly in the market's sights, there seems a newfound belief that the Fed's mindset has shifted to one of 'We are moving in September, give us a reason why we shouldn't'," IG market strategist Chris Westoon wrote in a note. "Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell took his turn to speak on policy overnight in what was a largely unscheduled speech and, despite sounding a touch more cautious, Dennis Lockhart kept the rate hike momentum going."

Even a mildly positive handover from Wall Street didn't help sentiment; the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite broke a three-day losing streak, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched down amid disappointment from Disney's earnings.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
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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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Mainland markets lower

China's Shanghai Composite index closed down 0.9 percent in subdued trade. Among other indexes, the CSI300 index sagged 0.9 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite slipped 0.7 percent.

Among laggards, oil-related counters such as PetroChina and Sinopec receded more than 1 percent each due to weaker energy prices.

Everbright Securities, one of the largest securities brokerages, closed down 4.6 percent despite announcing a near ten-fold increase in its first-half profit.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index tracked its mainland peers to head down 0.6 percent.

Wison Engineering Services - a supplier to PetroChina - notched down 0.6 percent following news that it has been found guilty of bribery after an investigation by the Chinese government and ordered to pay a fine of 30 million yuan.

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ASX loses 1.1%

Heavy selling in the shares of the country's major lenders sent Australia's S&P ASX 200 index down by its biggest one-day drop since July 22, eclipsing data that showed the economy added 38,500 new jobs in July, well above Reuters' expectations for 10,000 jobs.

Following the upbeat data, the Australian dollar ticked up briefly to $0.7373 against the greenback, but soon fell back to $0.7335 after markets digested news that the country's unemployment rate rose to a six-month high in July.

Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank slumped between 2.2 and 3.2 percent, following news that Australia and New Zealand Banking Group will be raising $2.2 billion through a share placement.

With energy prices hovering at multi-month lows, Santos and Woodside Petroleum lost 2.5 and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto drifted 1.1 percent higher ahead of its first-half earnings report, which is expected after the market close.

Nikkei adds 0.2%

Japan's Nikkei 225 index came down from its intra-day peak of 20,817 to end at 20,664, thanks to the yen hovering near a two-month low against the dollar.

Apart from exporter stocks, index heavyweights also helped to prop up the bourse, with Fanuc and Softbank piling on 3.1 and 1.9 percent, respectively. However, Fast Retailing reversed a positive open to plunge 2.2 percent, extending Wednesday's 4.7 percent slump sparked by a fall in July same-store sales.

Meiji Holdings topped the leaderboard by soaring nearly 20 percent, after the dairy products maker booked stronger first-quarter earnings.

Shares of NTT DoCoMo climbed 1.5 percent on the back of news that the mobile operator will be working with Intel and Qualcomm to develop 5G mobile communications technologies.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan kicks off its monthly two-day policy meeting on Thursday.

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Kospi eases 0.8%

South Korea's Kospi index reversed a higher open to end in the red, as hefty losses among heavyweight components weighed on the bourse.

The top two heaviest-weighted stocks Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor tumbled 3.8 and 4.1 percent, respectively, while steelmaker Posco eased 1.3 percent.

Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) erased gains to close down 1 percent. The stock rose more than 1 percent at the open, following news that the power company's second-quarter net profit jumped seven-fold from a year earlier.

Bucking the downtrend, Korea Investment Holdings rallied 5.5 percent after the company said it was forming a consortium with internet portal and mobile messaging provider Daum Kakao to launch an internet-only banking service. Shares of Kosdaq-listed Daum Kakao ended 0.9 percent higher.