Asian Shares Mostly Higher In Cautious Trade

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Wednesday, although the upside remained limited amid renewed worries about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese shares declined to snap a three-day winning streak as the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China crossed 2,000, weighing on business activity in the country.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 9.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,975.40, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 125.61 points, or 0.5 percent, at 27,655.81.

Japanese shares rebounded as the yen retreated after the release of weak core machinery orders data. The Nikkei 225 Index rallied 206.90 points, or 0.9 percent, to 23,400.70, while the broader Topix closed 0.4 percent higher at 1,671.86.

Gainers were led by precision instrument, rubber product and marine transportation companies.

The value of core machine orders in Japan was down 12.5 percent sequentially in December, the Cabinet Office said, coming in at 824.8 billion yen. That missed forecasts for a decline of 8.9 percent following the 18.0 percent surge in November.

On an annual basis, core machine orders sank 3.5 percent – again missing expectations for a drop of 1.3 percent after climbing 5.3 percent in the previous month.

Exports posted a 14th straight month of decline in January, but the 2.6 percent annual drop was markedly better than the 7 percent contraction forecast by economists.

Australian markets swung between gains and losses before finishing modestly higher, led by gold and mining stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 30.90 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,144.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 29.10 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,237.40.

Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers rallied 2.9 percent as it reported a near 6 percent rise in first-half profit. Fortescue Metals Group rose 0.7 percent after the miner unveiled record half-year revenue and raised its interim dividend.

Gold miners Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources climbed over 3 percent each as the precious metal breached the elusive and psychological level of $1,600.

Fast food firm Domino’s Pizza Enterprises soared 9.6 percent after it reported a nearly 30 percent increase in first-half profit. Webjet jumped 10.8 percent after the travel agency reported a 24 percent rise in revenue for the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, lender Commonwealth Bank fell 2.7 percent on going ex-dividend. Westpac Banking Corp declined half a percent after warning that its earnings and growth are under threat amid a rise in costs related to deadly bushfires and a lawsuit brought by financial crime regulator AUSTRAC.

WiseTech Global shares plunged over 27 percent after the logistics software maker downgraded its full-year 2020 earnings guidance.

Seoul stocks ended little changed after the government confirmed 15 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of people infected in the country to 46. The Kospi inched up 1.46 points to 2,210.34.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index rising 45.19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 11,981.03. Heavyweight Spark New Zealand rose 0.6 percent after the company revealed its strongest revenue growth in three years. Dairy firm a2 Milk advanced 0.9 percent.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as traders returned to their desks following the long holiday weekend.

While the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite finished marginally higher, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.3 percent after a surprise sales warning from Apple and disappointing earnings news from Walmart.

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