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Asia markets close higher; Chinese inflation cools, while RBI keeps rates steady

Asian markets open mixed

Major Asian markets advanced on Tuesday, with sentiment likely underpinned by cooling Chinese inflation data helping to spur stimulus hopes, while the Reserve Bank of India kept its monetary policy steady.

Australia's ASX 200 closed up 14.65 points, or 0.26 percent, at 5,552.50, with nearly 1 percent advances in the energy and financials sub-indexes.

In Japan, the advanced 114.40 points, or 0.69 percent, to 16,764.97, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi gained 12.66 points, or 0.62 percent, to 2,043.78.

Chinese mainland markets closed higher, with the composite up 21.63 points, or 0.72 percent, at 3,025.91, while the Shenzhen composite added 20.39 points, or 1.04 percent, to 1,982.66.

In Hong Kong, shares bucked the trend, with the trading down 0.21 percent in the late afternoon.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics in China showed the mainland's consumer inflation rose 1.8 percent on-year, in line with expectations, while producer prices fell 1.7 percent on-year, reported Reuters.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

"As food price inflation may continue to ease on the back of falling pork and fresh vegetable prices, we expect full year CPI inflation to remain comfortably below the 3 percent government target. This leaves ample room for monetary easing," HSBC said in a note after the data.

Separately, ANZ analysts said in a note that they expected producer price index (PPI) inflation "should continue to improve and turn positive in the second half of 2016," but they noted overcapacity would likely weigh on the PPI in the medium term.

Key economic indicators including industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales were also due from China in the coming days in another pulse-check for the world's second largest economy.

Elsewhere, the Indian central bank kept its repo-rate unchanged at 6.50 percent and its cash reserve ratio unchanged at 4 percent. In its policy statement, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said monetary policy remains "accommodative" and will "continue to emphasize the adequate provision of liquidity."

This was the last bi-monthly monetary policy statement delivered by outgoing RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who will step down from his position in September.

India's stock market had a muted reaction to the RBI decision, which was in line with analysts' expectations. Benchmark indexes traded lower for much of the morning session, with the Nifty 50 down 0.67 percent and the Sensex off by 0.71 percent in the afternoon.

The rupee wavered against the dollar, trading as high as 66.79 and as low as 66.98 during the session. As of 3:09 p.m. HK/SIN, the dollar/rupee pair traded at 66.93.

Major energy plays across the region closed mostly higher, following a nearly 3 percent advance in oil prices on Monday. There was speculation over whether producers might rein in supply after reports said OPEC President Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada confirmed a September meeting on Monday.

Shares of Santos gained 1.71 percent, Woodside Petroleum was up 1.06 percent and Oil Search was up 1.35 percent. Japan's Inpex gained 3.25 percent, Fuji Oil was up 4.25 percent and Japan Petroleum advanced 2.37 percent.

"News that OPEC would be having a September meeting with certain members keen to push for supply cuts again served as the impetus for oil prices to rally," said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at brokerage firm IG, in a note Tuesday morning.

"While a deal is highly unlikely to eventuate, the fact that it is even being mentioned shows how much difficulty the past month's renewed selloff was causing many struggling OPEC members."

During Asian hours on Tuesday, oil prices retraced some of Monday's gains. U.S. crude futures were down 1 percent at $42.59 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent shed 1.08 percent to $44.90.

Patrick Kovarik | AFP | Getty Images

In the currency market, the dollar climbed slightly against a basket of currencies, trading at 96.473, compared with its last close at 96.401. The dollar index climbed from levels under 96.00 in the previous week.

The Japanese yen remained weaker against the greenback, trading at 102.43 as of 2:03 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with levels below 101.5 last Wednesday.

Elsewhere, in Australia, business conditions cooled a little in July according to a monthly survey by the National Australia Bank. Reuters reported NAB's survey of more than 500 firms showed its index of business conditions fell 3 points to +8 in July. The index of business confidence eased a point to +4 in July, after rising 3 points in June, Reuters reported.

Goldman Sachs said in a note the headline figures remained "reasonably resilient" when taken in context of the risks and uncertainties surrounding the Federal Election.

"Overall, against the backdrop of still solid trading conditions, the combination of weaker profitability and rising retail prices is tentative evidence that margin compression is starting to see greater input cost pass-though," the Goldman Sachs analysts said, adding this could lead to the window for further easing by the Reserve Bank of Australia to start to close.

In company news, Australian firm Cochlear, which makes hearing implants, announced net profit for the year ended June 2016 was up 30 percent on-year at 188.9 million Australian dollars ($144.5 million). The company will pay a final dividend of A$1.20 per share, up 20 percent from a year earlier.

Cochlear shares, however, were down 2.85 percent in afternoon trade amid slowing growth forecasts and after the stock surged more than 30 percent so far this year.

Stateside, U.S. equities closed slightly lower, with the composite slipping 7.98 points, or 0.15 percent, to 5,213.14.

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