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Asian Shares Close Mixed ahead of Lunar New Year Holidays

By Investors Hub

Asian stocks ended mixed in cautious trading on Wednesday ahead of Lunar New Year holidays and the U.S inflation report due later in the day, which may provide further clues about the outlook for interest rates.

It is feared that a spike in inflation on the back of a tightening labor market and increased government spending may push Treasury yields higher once again and send equities spiraling lower.

Chinese stocks eked out modest gains in thin trading ahead of the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday starting on Thursday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 14.52 points or 0.5 percent to 3,199.48. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index surged up 676.07 points or 2.3 percent to 30,515.60.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares hit a four-month low as the dollar slid to a 15-month low against the yen and data showed the country’s GDP grew at a slower than expected 0.5 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 90.51 points or 0.4 percent to 21,154.17, the lowest closing level since October. The broader Topix Index closed 0.8 percent lower at 1,702.72 amid across-the-board selling.

Panasonic, Toyota Motor and Softbank ended down around 2 percent each. Mitsui Mining & Smelting slumped 4.7 percent and Mitsubishi Materials tumbled 8.8 percent.

Fujifilm lost 2 percent after Xerox shareholder Darwin Deason filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. photocopier maker’s board failed shareholders by approving a merger deal with Fujifilm that undervalued the company.

Australian shares ended lower, dragged down by financials on concerns over possible interest rate hikes by major central banks. Disappointing consumer sentiment figures also weighed on the markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index slid 14.70 points or 0.3 percent to 5,841.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 17 points or 0.3 percent at 5,940.

Commonwealth Bank shares tumbled 3 percent on going ex-dividend. ANZ shed 0.3 percent and Westpac eased 0.1 percent.

On the other hand, mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended slightly higher, and blood products company CSL soared 5.1 percent after lifting its full-year profit guidance and half-year dividend.

Insurance Australia Group shares jumped 3.2 percent. The insurance giant said it is considering selling parts of its disappointing Asian arm.

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