(RTTNews) - Asian stocks ended flat to slightly lower on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's speech on Thursday at the annual Jackson Hole symposium for clues on the U.S. central bank's view on inflation and monetary policy. Analysts have suggested Powell will talk about 'average inflation' targeting rather than the long-standing 2 percent target.
Chinese stocks fell sharply despite optimism around U.S.-Sino trade negotiations. The benchmark Shanghai Composite fell 43.84 points, or 1.30 percent, to 3,329.74, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished marginally higher at 25,491.79.
Japanese shares ended on a flat note after rising sharply the previous day on a weaker yen and renewed hopes for Covid-19 treatment. The Nikkei average slid 5.91 points to 23,290.86 after climbing 1.35 percent in the previous session.
The broader Topix index ended little changed with a negative bias at 1,624.48 as investors waited for more details on the health of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Heavyweight SoftBank Group rallied 3.4 percent to extend gains from the previous session. Oil company Inpex Corp rose over 1 percent and Japan Petroleum added 2.9 percent.
Trading house Itochu ended little changed after raising its stake in convenience store chain operator FamilyMart Co. to 65.71 percent via a tender offer.
Fast-food restaurant group Colowide advanced 2.7 percent as the company extended its hostile bid for casual dining chain Ootoya Holdings.
Australian markets fell notably as Victoria recorded its second-most deadly day of the Covid-19 pandemic with 24 deaths and the government said it plans to extend a state of emergency by 12 months.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 45 points, or 0.73 percent, to 6,116.40, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 37.50 points, or 0.59 percent, at 6,294.50.
The big four banks fell between 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 0.8 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Gold miners Evolution Mining, Newcrest, Northern Star Resources and Regis Resources gave up 1-3 percent after safe-haven gold prices extended losses overnight.
Whitehaven Coal plunged as much as 18 percent after it suffered a major hit to earnings for 2019-20. Pipeline owner APA Group lost 2.7 percent after it forecast a weaker fiscal 2021.
Qantas Airways declined 1.3 percent as the airline announced more job cuts to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Financial technology company Zip Co soared 27.5 percent after it launched Zip Business by partnering with online marketplace eBay.
Seoul stocks recovered from an early slide to end marginally higher despite increasing new Covid-19 cases in the country. The benchmark Kospi ended up 2.59 points, or 0.11 percent, at 2,369.32. Chipmaker SK Hynix gained 2.3 percent and leading chemical maker LG Chem surged 6.2 percent.
As daily new virus cases bounced back to over 300, health officials said they would have to raise the social distancing scheme to the highest level three from the current level two.
Business conditions in South Korea's manufacturing sector improved in August, the latest Business Survey Index from the Bank of Korea showed today with an unadjusted score of 66 - up from 59 in July.
New Zealand shares rose for the fourth straight session, with the benchmark NZX 50 index rising 38.33 points, or 0.32 percent, to 12,031.51. Trading was halted for more than three hours today, with exchange operator NZX saying it was likely hit by a second cyberattack in as many days.
In economic news, New Zealand posted a merchandise trade surplus of NZ$282 million in July, Statistics New Zealand said - down from NZ$426 million in June. Imports tumbled an annual 18.0 percent, while exports eased 0.2 percent. For the first month in almost 34 years, no crude oil was imported into New Zealand, the stats bureau noted.
U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as a gauge of U.S. consumer confidence dropped in August to the lowest since 2014 and China called a U.S. spy plane's flight through a no-fly zone a "naked provocation", further ratcheting up tensions between Beijing and Washington.
While the Dow eased 0.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to reach fresh record closing highs.
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