Asian stocks ended flat to slightly lower on Tuesday as climbing Covid-19 cases in emerging economies including India and Brazil dented hopes for a swift global economic recovery.
Traders also awaited the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement and Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments on the economy for directional cues.
Chinese shares ended little changed even as official data showed profits at Chinese industrial firms nearly doubled in March from a year ago.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index finished marginally higher at 3,442.61, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 11.29 points at 28,941.54.
Japanese shares ended lower as a slew of earnings disappointed and the Bank of Japan maintained its monetary stimulus unchanged, as widely expected, after tweaking its policy at the March meeting.
The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 134.34 points, or 0.5 percent, to 28,991.89 as the country struggles with containing the Covid-19 pandemic. The broader Topix closed down 14.60 points, or 0.8 percent, at 1,903.55.
Drug maker Dai-ichi Sankyo tumbled 3.5 percent after issuing a lower than expected forecast for the current year. Canon declined 1.3 percent despite posting significant year-over-year earnings growth for the first quarter.
Australian markets fell but ended well off their day’s lows amid renewed concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases in countries like India, Japan and Brazil.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended down 11.80 points, or 0.2 percent, at 7,033.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index slipped 12.30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,295.50.
BHP Group, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto all rose about 1 percent as iron ore prices firmed. Gold miner Evolution Mining rallied 3 percent and Northern Star Resources advanced 1.4 percent.
BlueScope Steel gained half a percent as it increased its earnings guidance for the second half. Waste management firm Bingo Industries surged 6.3 percent after it agreed to a A$2.3 billion takeover proposal from Macquarie.
Tabcorp Holdings jumped 4.2 percent as British wagering giant Entain increased its bid for the company’s troubled bookmaking and media division. iSelect climbed 3.3 percent after the insurance comparison platform announced a special dividend.
Seoul stocks ended flat with a negative bias as caution crept in ahead of the FOMC meeting. The benchmark Kospi slipped 2.11 points to settle at 3,215.42 after three days of gains.
Data released earlier in the day showed the country’s GDP grew 1.6 percent sequentially in the first quarter of 2021, beating forecasts for 1 percent growth after a 1.2 percent gain in the previous three months.
New Zealand shares edged lower, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending down 30.12 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,620.52. A2 Milk Company shares slumped 5.6 percent as the infant formula producer battles multiple headwinds.
U.S. stocks ended broadly higher overnight as investors braced for a deluge of earnings reports from big U.S. companies and the April FOMC meeting.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent to reach new record closing highs, while the Dow slipped 0.2 percent.
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