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Australian shares lead broad losses across Asia; Ardent Leisure tumbles 15%

Australian shares led widespread losses in Asia-Pacific on Wednesday, with shares of Ardent Leisure, operator of Dreamworld theme park, tumbling 14.89 percent to 2 Australian dollars a share ($1.54) after four people were killed due to an apparently malfunctioned ride on Tuesday.

The ASX 200 fell 83.03 points, or 1.53 percent, to 5,359.79. The energy sector tumbled 2.47 percent on the back of lower oil prices, while the heavily-weighted financial sector was off 1.32 percent.

The country's so-called Big Four banks fell near or more than 1 percent each; shares in ANZ closed down 0.91 percent, Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 1.38 percent, Westpac was lower by 0.97 percent and the National Australia Bank was down 1.22 percent.

Energy plays sank more than 1 percent each, with Santos shares closing down 2.97 percent, Oil Search off 3.01 percent, Woodside Petroleum down 1.87 percent and Beach Energy dropping 6.29 percent.

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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Oil prices retreated during Asian hours on Wednesday, after finishing down more than 1 percent on Tuesday.

U.S. crude futures were down 1.40 percent at $49.26, after dropping 1.1 percent during the U.S. session. Global benchmark Brent fell 1.26 percent to $50.15 a barrel as of 1:26 p.m. HK/SIN, following a 1.3 percent overnight loss.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 4.8 million barrels in the week ended October 21, higher than the 1.7 million barrel build forecast by analysts, according to Reuters.

Among other Asia-Pacific markets, the Kospi slipped 23.28 points, or 1.14 percent, to 2,013.89 amid local reports that said travel agencies in mainland China were reportedly ordered by provincial governments to reduce the number of tourists visiting South Korea, according to the Nikkei business daily.

The Nikkei said the news was reported by a South Korean newspaper, JoongAng Daily, which said travel agents had until the end of the month to turn in plans for reducing tourism.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 bucked the generally negative regional trend to close up 26.59 points, or 0.15 percent, at 17,391.84.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished down 239.68 points, or 1.02 percent, at 23,325.43. Chinese mainland shares were also lower, with the Shanghai composite down 14.29 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,117.64, while the Shenzhen composite fell 8.38 points, or 0.40 percent, to 2,069.36.

Major indexes in India, Singapore and Thailand also traded down.

In the currency market, the dollar traded at 98.75 against a basket of currencies as of 1:30 p.m. HK/SIN, after briefly pushing past the 99 handle in the previous session.

"The dollar is still seen supported by expectations for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidential election on 8 November, and a Fed hike on 14 December," said analysts at Singapore's DBS Bank in a note. They added there was also caution among market watchers as the dollar index approached the "ceiling of its broad 93-100 range set since early 2015."

Other currency majors traded mixed, with the yen at 104.31 against the dollar, a touch weaker than its last close of 104.22.

The Australian dollar rose to a session high of $0.7708, from levels below $0.7650 after consumer prices in the country edged up. As of 1:55 p.m. HK/SIN, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7692.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the consumer price index for the July-September quarter rose 0.7 percent on-quarter, compared with a rise of 0.4 percent in the May-June quarter. Prices rose 1.3 percent over the twelve months to the September quarter.

Analysts said the uptick reduced the likelihood of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) delivering another rate cut at its next policy meeting.

"The RBA will see today's pick up in quarterly inflation as a net positive from record low rates of 1.5 percent, so this pushes any concerns of further easing well back into 2017," said Matt Simpson, a senior market analyst at spreadbettor ThinkMarkets, in a note.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, however, pointed out in a note that the inflation numbers were still very low, meaning there was still the possibility of a surprise rate cut, even though 2017 was more likely.

"It's not clear that [low inflation] has bottomed yet and the Australian dollar remains uncomfortably high, so it's premature to close the door on another rate cut," he said.

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It was a busy session on the earnings front.

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers, which owns one of the largest supermarket chains in the country, Coles, posted its first quarter financial 2017 sales results.

Food and liquor store sales at its Coles supermarket chain rose 1.8 percent in the three months to September, which was slower than the 3.3 percent adjusted increment for the June quarter. Wesfarmers shares finished down 5.71 percent.

In other earnings news, South Korea's LG Display said its third-quarter operating profit fell 2.9 percent on-year to 323 billion won ($286.12 million), according to Reuters. This beat a Reuters forecast that predicted 307 billion won in operating profit. LG Display shares closed up 0.50 percent.

Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment posted a 28 percent rise in net profit in the third quarter to HK$2.7 billion ($348.13 million) on-year, Reuters reported. Galaxy Entertainment shares were up 1.91 percent, while other gaming shares listed in Hong Kong ended mixed.

Shares of Wynn Macau advanced 0.98 percent and Sands China was up 1.28 percent. Melco International shares slipped 0.20 percent.

In Japan, gaming giant Nintendo released its earnings after market close, where the company posted a first half operating loss of $57 million. Nintendo shares closed down 0.67 percent on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 53.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,169.27. The S&P 500 index was down 8.17 points, or 0.38 percent, at 2,143.16, while the Nasdaq dropped 26.43 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,283.4.

Companies including Caterpillar and 3M posted mixed earnings results before market open stateside, beating estimates on the bottom line, while missing on revenues. Caterpillar also lowered its 2016 earnings per share guidance.

Apple posted a third straight quarter of year-on-year revenue declines after the bell, despite a better-than-expected iPhone sales. Revenue was in line with expectations.

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