Asian Shares Decline As Investors Await Powell's Remarks

Asian stocks fell broadly on Wednesday, with disappointment over a lack of additional stimulus in China and lingering uncertainty over the Federal Reserve’s interest rate plans weighing on sentiment.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is set to testify before Congress later in the day as investors look for clues on the outlook for rates.

The dollar traded firm as solid data on U.S. homebuilder sentiment and housing starts complicated the formula around what the Fed is going to do to keep inflation under control. Gold lingered near three-month lows, while oil rebounded from two consecutive sessions of losses.

Chinese shares tumbled on concerns about demand in the absence of a sizable stimulus package. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.3 percent to 3,197.90 ahead of market holidays on Thursday and Friday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped 2.0 percent to 19,218.35, dragged down by heavyweight technology stocks. Alibaba Group lost 4 percent after announcing a new chairman and CEO in a major shakeup.

Japanese shares advanced after the minutes of the Bank of Japan’s April meeting showed that most board members had no intention of altering the central bank’s ultra-loose policy in the near-term.

The Nikkei 225 Index recovered from an early slide to end 0.6 percent higher at 33,575.14, with insurers, transport, chip-related shares and SoftBank Group leading the surge. The broader Topix ended up 0.5 percent at 2,295.01.

Seoul stocks fell for a third straight session as investors awaited Powell’s remarks in front of Congress. The Kospi closed down 0.9 percent at 2,582.63. Posco Holdings, Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI and SK Hynix all fell around 1 percent.

South Korean producer inflation slowed in May to its weakest pace in nearly 2-1/2 years, central bank data showed earlier in the day.

Australian markets snapped a seven-day winning streak, with miners and banks pacing the decliners. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.6 percent to 7,314.90, marking its biggest single-day loss since June 6. The broader All Ordinaries Index fell 0.6 percent to 7,505.60.

BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group slid 1-2 percent as iron ore futures dropped on concerns about an uneven economic recovery in China. Gold miner Newcrest lost 1.2 percent and Northern Star Resources gave up 2.3 percent.

TPG Telecom plunged 5.4 percent after Australia’s competition tribunal declined to allow the company to share regional spectrum and mobile network assets with Telstra.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index slipped 0.1 percent to 11,776.25.

U.S. stocks declined overnight as investors awaited Powell’s congressional testimony and comments by a number of other Fed officials for clues about the outlook for monetary policy.

Strong housing data also revived concerns about the outlook for inflation and interest rates.

The Dow gave up 0.7 percent, the S&P 500 shed half a percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.2 percent.

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