Asian Shares Mixed On Rate Fears, China Inflation Data

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday, as concerns persisted about headwinds from rising global rates and China reported downbeat inflation data.

The dollar hovered near a three-month high after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated a hawkish message on the second day of testimony to U.S. Congress but said the central bank was yet to decide on the size of a potential interest-rate rise later this month.

Oil and gold prices struggled for direction in Asian trading, waiting to take cues from Friday’s U.S. jobs report and next week’s inflation figures.

Chinese shares declined after the release of weak inflation data. China’s consumer price inflation grew 1.0 percent on a yearly basis in February, weaker than the 2.1 percent gain in January and marking the slowest pace since February last year due to weak demand following the Lunar New Year holidays, official data showed.

Separate data showed producer prices declined further in February, down 1.4 percent after a 0.8 percent decrease in January.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.2 percent to 3,276.09, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.6 percent lower at 19,925.74.

Japanese shares rose for a fifth straight session to hit a 6-1/2-month high after data showed the country narrowly avoided a recession at the end of last year.

Investor sentiment was also underpinned by expectations for no imminent change to Bank of Japan stimulus as the central bank concludes its two-day policy meeting on Friday.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 0.6 percent to 28,623.15. Real estate and financial shares topped the gainers list as investors hunted for high dividend yields.

Convenience store operator Seven & i Holdings jumped 4.1 percent after reports that it was closing some of its Ito Yokado supermarket locations.

Seoul stocks fell for a second day running amid selling by foreign investors. The Kospi settled 0.5 percent lower at 2,419.09, dragged down by battery makers. LG Energy and Solution gave up 2.3 percent and rival Samsung SDI lost 2.9 percent.

Australian markets finished marginally higher, recovering from an early slide on the back of gains in financial and technology stocks. Miners declined, with BHP falling 2.2 percent on going ex-dividend.

Energy stocks advanced despite oil prices falling to their lowest in more than a week in the previous session on concerns about the outlook for energy demand.

Xero soared 10.7 percent after the cloud accounting platform said it would shed up to 800 jobs or about 16 percent of its workforce.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index slipped 0.3 percent to 11,826.15.

U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending mixed overnight as movements in bond markets signaled an impending recession and the Fed’s “Beige Book” survey of economic conditions noted inflationary pressures remained widespread.

Data showed private payrolls increased more than expected in February and job openings fell less than expected in January, pointing to a tight labor market.

The Dow slipped 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 edged up 0.1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4 percent.

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