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Asia markets lower; ASX down 0.2 pct, Nikkei down 0.2 pct

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asian shares were mixed on Wednesday, with traders eyeing moves in oil prices ahead of a flurry of Chinese data later in the week.

In Australia, the ASX 200 closed down 0.16 percent, or 8.85 points, at 5,543.7, with its heavily-weighed sectors seeing declines. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.18 percent, 29.85 points, at 16,735.12, after trading positive earlier, while the Topix closed 0.2 percent lower, or 2.66 points, at 1,314.83.

Chinese mainland markets ended the session lower, with the Shanghai composite closed down 0.21 percent, or 6.932 points, at 3,019.288 and the Shenzhen composite ended down 0.328 percent, or 6.496 points, at 1,976.164. Investors awaited important data out of China due Friday, including industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dipped 0.18 percent as of 3:26 p.m. HK/SIN time, while South Korea's Kospi closed effectively flat at 2,044.64.

U.S. stocks ended slightly higher Tuesday, with the Nasdaq composite posting a fresh record close at 5,225.48, while the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 finished near flat.

"It's a slow grind in markets at present, which will please many in the investment community but frustrate the day traders out there," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at brokerage firm IG.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
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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Aside from developments stateside in the U.S. presidential election campaigns, Weston said issues that traders would likely have on their watch list included the dollar, oil prices and the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the benchmark interest rate used by many banks to offer short-term loans to one another .

"However, these markets are not at levels likely to to cause any real anxiety in broader risk sentiment," he added.

Oil prices pulled back on Tuesday after advancing nearly 3 percent on Monday amid news of a September meeting among OPEC members.

The drop in prices reflected a surprise build-up in U.S. crude stockpiles last week. Reuters reported that preliminary data from the American Petroleum Institute showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose by 2.1 million barrels during the week to August 5, when analysts had expected a 1 million-barrel drawdown.

U.S. crude futures were trading at $42.77 a barrel in the Asian trading session, while global benchmark Brent was trading at $44.63.

Major oil players in the region were mostly lower, Australia's Santos slipped 1.68 percent and Oil Search was down 1.34 percent; Japan's Inpex slipped 0.82 percent, while China's Petrochina was flat.

On Wednesday, in his last speech as the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor, Glenn Stevens downplayed concerns that the central bank might take drastic measures to meet inflation targets, Reuters reported. Stevens also emphasized that monetary policy had its limits, especially considering that Australian households debt levels were high, according to Reuters.

Japanese data showed machinery orders rose more than expected in June, a sign that companies were more willing to increase their capital expenditure, according to Reuters.

Core orders for June were up 8.3 percent on-month compared to a median forecast that predicted a 3.1 percent increase, Reuters reported. Manufacturers' orders rose 17.7 percent while orders from the services sector were up 2.1 percent.

"These numbers are at best an aberration [from the previous few figures] as the manufacturing sector in Japan remains quite weak," said Tony Boyadjian, senior vice president of foreign exchange at Compass Global Markets.

The better-than-expected data failed to give stocks a leg-up in Japan as a relatively stronger yen weighed. The Japanese currency traded at 101.33 against the dollar in Asian trade on Wednesday, compared to levels over 102.2 earlier in the week.

Japanese export stocks traded mostly lower, with Toyota down 1.1 percent, Honda down 1.02 percent while Nissan shares were lower by 0.1 percent.

In earnings news, Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), said its cash profits rose 3 percent for full-year 2016 to 9.45 billion Australian dollars ($7.26 billion). The bank announced a final dividend of A$2.22 per share.

However, warnings from its chief executive Ian Narev about "the combined effect of weaker demand, strong competition and increasing regulation" might have dampened investors sentiment as CBA shares fell 1.29 percent.

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