Asian Shares Fall As Inflation Expectations Grow

Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Thursday as largely upbeat U.S. economic data added to optimism about the economic recovery but also raised concerns about inflation.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index ended up 20.27 points, or 0.6 percent, at 3,675.36 as traders returned to their desks after the Lunar New Year holidays. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 489.67 points, or 1.6 percent, to 30,595.27.

Japanese shares drifted lower as doubts crept in about the sustainability of the recent rally. The Nikkei 225 Index slipped 56.10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 30,236.09, reversing earlier gains. The broader Topix closed 1 percent lower at 1,941.91.

Chip-related shares underperformed, with Nidec, Renesas Electronics and Advantest falling 2-4 percent. On the positive side, Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing jumped 4.6 percent and Chugai Pharmaceutical rose 2.2 percent.

Australian markets swung between gains and losses before ending on a flat note as Facebook blocked the sharing of news in Australia and data showed the country’s jobless rate fell to 6.4 percent last month from 6.6 percent in December.

Woodside Petroleum fell 2.4 percent and Origin Energy dropped 2.2 percent after reporting disappointing results. Gold miner Newcrest gave up 1.6 percent and Northern Star Resources shed 1.3 percent after gold prices fell for a fourth straight session overnight.

Lender ANZ climbed 2.8 percent after it reported a jump in cash profits for the December quarter. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group gained 1.9 percent after posting record half-year results.

Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers rose 0.6 percent after it reported a nearly 15 percent increase in its half-year profit. In the healthcare sector, CSL jumped 2.8 percent and Sonic Healthcare added 1.2 percent on well-received earnings updates.

Seoul stocks ended sharply lower on massive foreign and institutional selling stemming from concerns about inflation and surging bond yields. The benchmark Kospi tumbled 47.07 points, or 1.5 percent, to 3,086.66, extending losses for the second straight session.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics fell 1.3 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix declined 3.1 percent. Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, lost 3.3 percent.

New Zealand shares ended modestly lower despite solid earnings reports from the likes of Skellerup Holdings and Ebos. The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 40.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,633.60.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as upbeat data on retail sales, industrial production and producer prices added to inflation concerns and dented prospects of more stimulus.

Meanwhile, minutes from the January Fed meeting signaled the central bank is likely to leave policy unchanged for the foreseeable future.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent to a new record closing high, while the S&P 500 finished marginally lower and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index gave up 0.6 percent.

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