Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trade

Asian stocks ended mixed in cautious trade on Wednesday after reports suggested that Beijing wants Washington to lift punitive tariffs as part of a truce in a trade war.

Chinese shares ended lower as investors awaited more clarity on trade talks and policy easing. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index dropped 12.97 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,978.60 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 5.24 points to 27,688.64.

Japanese shares posted modest gains to end at a fresh 13-month high as the minutes of the Bank of Japan's October monetary policy meeting kept easy money policy on the cards. Investors shrugged off survey data showing that Japan's private sector contracted for the first time in more than three years in October.

The Nikkei average edged up 0.22 percent to 23,303.82, its highest level since Oct. 10 last year. The broader Topix index ended little changed at 1,694.45.

Exporters and financials were among the prominent gainers. Hitachi rallied 2.1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 1 percent.

Australian markets declined as gold miners succumbed to selling pressure on renewed Sino-U.S. trade optimism. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 36.90 points, or 0.55 percent, to 6,660.20 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 38.40 points, or 0.56 percent, at 6,773.20.

Gold miner Evolution Mining declined 1 percent and Newcrest shed 2.6 percent after safe-haven gold prices closed lower for a second straight session overnight.

The big four banks ended mixed, a day after the RBA held interest rates steady as expected at its policy review. Oil & gas exploration company Oil Search gained 1.9 percent and refiner and retailer Viva Energy Group added 1.5 percent on higher oil prices.

Building materials maker Boral tumbled 3.7 percent after it warned of a weaker fiscal 2020 first half. Mining heavyweight BHP gained 1.5 percent, tracking gains in copper and iron ore prices.

Seoul stocks hit a five-month high as investors remained upbeat over the prospect of an interim trade deal between Washington and Beijing. The benchmark Kospi ended marginally higher at 2,144.15.

State-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp led the gainers to end by as much as 6.1 percent while market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 1.1 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.7% or 78.8 points to 10,762.76. The benchmark S&P NZX-50 index dropped 82.36 points, or 0.76 percent, to 10,759.18.

The jobless rate in New Zealand came in at a seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent in the third quarter of 2019, Statistics New Zealand said in a report.

That exceeded expectations for 4.1 percent and was up from the 11-year low mark of 3.9 percent in the three months prior.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite index was down 0.2 percent, a day after the country's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged for a third policy session in a row.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as investors digested strong data on the services sector and trade balance and watched the latest developments on the trade front.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq Composite inched up marginally to hit record closing highs while the S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent.

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