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Nikkei Asia300 index little changed as markets consolidate after six-day gains

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan ended little changed on Tuesday amid lackluster cues from the U.S. and as markets consolidated following a six-day rally.

The Nikkei Asia300 index rose less than 0.1% to 1,277.79. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics added 0.4% after Samsung Pay announced a partnership to allow users to pay via PayPal. India's ITC plunged 12.6% to 284.60 rupees, its biggest fall in over two-years, after brokerages downgraded the cigarette maker following an increase on some levies on cigarettes. Korea Aerospace Industries slipped 6%, extending recent losses, after the county's prospector launched an investigation into alleged corruption charges related to defense procurements.

The quiet day of trading followed range-bound moves in U.S. stocks overnight as investors awaited more cues from company earnings. Announcement by two U.S. Republican Senators during early Asian hours on Tuesday that they will not back the new healthcare bill cast fresh doubts over the implementation of President Donald Trump's economic agenda. While moves in equity markets were muted with the U.S. index futures falling only marginally, the dollar index fell to 10-month lows.

"It seems markets are losing confidence that President Trump will be able to deliver on his promised plans," said Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at brokerage FXTM. "With tax reforms now likely to face huge uncertainties and economic data signalling a slowing economy, it will only be a matter of time before U.S. corporate earnings take a U-turn, thus ending the equities' rally."

The Nikkei country index for China advanced 0.1%. H-shares of China Shenhua Energy rose 1% after reporting an 18.4% rise in sales in the first half of the year. China Vanke ended unchanged at HK$23.2 after rallying earlier in the day as it resumed trading after saying it will participate in a deal to buy Singapore's Global Logistic Properties for $16 billion Singapore dollars ($11.7 billion).

Nikkei's Hong Kong index added 0.3%. Belle International Holdings gained 0.2%. At an extraordinary general meeting held Monday, most shareholders voted in favor of taking the footwear maker private. Belle said it will withdraw the listing of its shares on July 27, and that Tuesday is the expected last day for trading in its shares.

The index for India declined 1.3%, primarily on account of the slump in ITC after a chorus of brokerage downgrades and price target cuts. Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "outperform" and lowered the target price to 310 rupees from 400 rupees. "The stock will continue to face pressure on earnings progressively and the next trigger will be the tax hikes in the next year's annual budget," it said in a note. CLSA downgraded the stock to "sell" from "buy," cutting the target price to 285 rupees from 417 rupees earlier. Macquarie also lowered the target to 340 rupees while Goldman Sachs brought it down to 321 rupees.

The country index for South Korea rose 0.6% and that of Taiwan added 0.4%.

The Singapore country index of Nikkei rose 0.5%, led once more by lender DBS Group Holdings. Optimism over the earnings drove the lender up by 1.7% to hit a seventeen-year high. Singapore Airlines edged higher by 0.1% after the airline reported a load factor of 82.7% for June, up 4.6% from last year. Singapore Press Holdings fell 2.6%, extending losses from Monday after it reported a worse-than-expected 45% decline in third-quarter net profit.

In other South East Asian country indices, The Philippines ended little changed and Malaysia edged higher by 0.3%. Thailand rose 0.2%, while Indonesia slipped 0.3%. Vietnam was lower by 0.1%.

--Nimesh Vora and V. Phani Kumar

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