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Rally in Asia markets stalls after Wall Street's wild ride; South Korea lags

  • The rebound in Asian markets stalled as several indexes in the region gave up early gains to finish the session in negative territory.
  • Major U.S. indexes finished the previous session higher following wild swings.
  • The dollar was softer against a basket of currencies.

The rebound in Asian markets stalled on Wednesday as several indexes in the region gave up early gains to finish the session in negative territory, after major U.S. indexes finished their Tuesday session higher.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed barely in positive territory after rising more than 3 percent earlier in the day. The benchmark closed higher by 0.16 percent, or 35.13 points, at 21,645.37 as investors stayed defensive following last session's tumble.

Automakers and technology names were broadly higher following broad-based declines seen in the last session: Toyota rose 1.18 percent, Sony gained 1.52 percent and SoftBank Group soared 3.81 percent by the end of the session. Among other blue chips, Fanuc Manufacturing closed down 2 percent and Fast Retailing declined 1.41 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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South Korea's Kospi reversed early gains to finish the session lower by 2.31 percent at 2,396.56. Shares of tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics tumbled 3.42 percent, dragging on the broader index. Other tech names were mixed at the end of the day, with SK Hynix advancing 1.28 percent.

Losses were also seen in the manufacturing, finance, energy sectors. Steelmaker Posco closed down 2.67 percent and Lotte Shopping tumbled 6.07 percent.

Over in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 bounced 0.75 percent to end at 5,876.8 as energy and materials stocks led gains. Among major miners, Rio Tinto and BHP tacked on 3.82 percent and 1.81 percent, respectively. Energy-related stocks edged up: Santos advanced 1.62 percent and Beach Energy climbed 4.82 percent.

Gold producers were the worst-performers on the day, with the sector declining 1.96 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index erased early gains to track lower by 0.76 percent at 3:04 p.m. HK/SIN. Tech giant Tencent clung to gains, climbing 1.22 percent ahead of the market close, but other index heavyweights fared less well: Developer China Evergrande Group slid 2 percent and China Unicom fell 2.69 percent.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese banks were also in negative territory before the close, with China Construction Bank and Bank of China lower by 1.92 percent and 1.37 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, mainland markets extended losses after last session's sell-off. The Shanghai composite declined 1.81 percent to close at 3,309.58 and the Shenzhen composite shed 0.68 percent to end at 1,714.39. The blue chip CSI 300 index finished lower by 2.38 percent.

Mainland financial stocks took a beating and were among the worst-performing sectors on Wednesday: Shares of Bank of China listed in Shanghai fell 3.57 percent and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China lost 5.94 percent by the end of the day. Among insurers, Ping An Insurance Group finished the session down 3.32 percent.

US stocks recover 

U.S. stocks closed higher on Tuesday after broadly slumping in the last two sessions. There was no obvious single reason behind massive losses seen stateside on Monday, but the sell-offs were blamed on concerns about rising interest rates, program trading and volatility funds that use leverage.

The rout in global stock markets also saw Asian and European shares sell off in the last session.

The declines overnight were characterized by analysts as a correction rather than a sell-off driven by fundamentals.

"We don't think this is the beginning of meaningful and sustained weakness for markets, but volatility is back and investor confidence has taken a hit," said David Lafferty and Esty Dwek Roditi, Natixis Investment Managers global chief strategist and investment specialist, respectively.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major rivals, was softer at 89.585. At 2:50 p.m. HK/SIN, the dollar edged down against the yen to trade at 109.22, below Tuesday's close of 109.59.

The Australian dollar edged lower against the greenback to trade at $0.7872.

Meanwhile, U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures advanced 0.8 percent to trade at $63.90 per barrel after settling lower by more than 1 percent in the last session. Brent crude futures added 0.88 percent to trade at $67.45.

Corporate news

Trade in the shares of Wynn Macau was halted on Wednesday, the Hong Kong stock exchange said in a notice. The trading halt follows earlier allegations of sexual misconduct against casino mogul Steve Wynn. Wynn Resorts later announced it would be accepting Wynn's resignation as chief executive and chairman of the company.

Elsewhere, Japan's SoftBank Group announced on Wednesday that third-quarter operating profit declined 2.8 percent compared to one year ago, Reuters reported. The company also said in a release that it had begun preparations to list shares of its Japanese telecommunications unit, SoftBank Corporation.

Shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 0.79 percent by the end of the day after the bank reported on Wednesday that cash profit in the six months ending Dec. 21 shrank 1.9 percent to 4.74 million Australian dollars ($3.74 million). Also mentioned in the statement was the the A$575 million ($454 million) in expenses related to a money-laundering lawsuit incurred by the bank. Australia's other "Big Four" banks also closed in negative territory, but saw less significant losses.

Meanwhile, Premier Investments, the largest shareholder of Myer Holdings, called for a meeting to vote on removing the retailer's board, Reuters reported. In a release, Premier Investments said it was not in the best interest of shareholders for Myer's existing board to "preside over another year of declining sales, eroding profits and further share price deterioration." Myer shares closed down 2.31 percent.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.