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Asia markets under pressure, China posts monthly trade deficit in yuan terms

Nikada | Getty Images

Asian equities were mostly in the red on Wednesday amid mounting geopolitical risks in the region and rising expectations that the Federal Reserve would tighten monetary policy next week.

The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 0.47 percent or 90.1 points at 19,254, its third straight session of losses. Japan's fourth-quarter gross domestic product was revised up to 1.2 percent from the preliminary figure of 1 percent, as capital expenditure grew at its fastest pace in three years.

Australia's ASX 200 was off 0.03 percent or 1.73 points to close at 5,759.7, with heavy losses in its materials sub-index, which was down 0.81 percent.

Mainland Chinese markets finished mixed after it produced a rare trade deficit in yuan terms. Earlier, official data showed that exports in yuan-denominated terms had risen 4.2 percent from a year earlier, but imports advanced 44.7 percent year-on-year.

The Shanghai composite closed nearly flat at 3,241.18 and Shenzhen composite ended 0.36 percent or 7.3 points lower at 2,024.28.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 0.36 percent.

South Korea's Kospi was up just 0.06 percent or 1.4 points at 2,095.4 as traders eyed the expected Constitutional Court's announcement about whether it will deliver it ruling on the President Park Geun-hye's impeachment, Reuters reported.

Geopolitical risks in Asia are mounting, with the arrival of the first components of a U.S.-deployed Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.

The deployment of the system drew strong rebuke from China, even though the U.S. state department said it has told China that the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system is no threat, but a response to North Korea's latest missile test.

South Korean companies in China have since reported cyber attacks, store closures and fines, while state-controlled media has called for a boycott of South Korean goods and services, Reuters reported.

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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Meanwhile, the political saga between Malaysia and North Korea dragged on, after Pyongyang barred Malaysians from leaving the country in connection, which sparked Malaysia to do the same with North Koreans in its country.


Late on Tuesday, government data showed that China's foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly rose for the first time in eight months in February. Reserves rose to $3.005 trillion in February, compared to January when reserves fell to $2.998 trillion.

"The rebound in reserves occurred in a backdrop of a weaker dollar across the board. As such, it is by no means indicative that the capital flows situation has improved on China's merits alone," said Chang Wei Liang, economist at Mizuho Bank, in a Wednesday note.




In company news, Chinese cellphone equipment manufacturer ZTE agreed to plead guilty and pay about $900 million to the U.S. to settle allegations that it violated American laws by selling U.S. technology to Iran. ZTE was untraded on Wednesday at 15.28 Chinese yuan per share.

Wall Street ended lower on Tuesdayamid the prospects of higher interest rates and the House Republicans legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 29.58 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 20,924.76, the S&P 500 index was down 6.92 points, or 0.29 percent, to end at 2,368.39, while the Nasdaq composite finished lower by 15.25 points, or 0.26 percent, to 5,833.93.

The dollar remained was steady against a basket of currencies, trading at 101.76 at 3:12 pm HK/SIN. The yen traded at 113.65 against the greenback, while the Australian dollar hovered at $0.795

U.S. crude fell 0.66 percent to $52.80 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent crude was 0.57 percent at $55.60. Oil prices were under pressure as traders look to the official Energy Information Administration's data on U.S. inventory build.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said Tuesday at CERAweek that compliance among top global producers with a deal to curb supplies should improve in February.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that oil market fundamentals were improving after the output deal to cut global supplies.

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